February 08, 2005

2/8 - Editorial: Is Environmentalism Dead?

The subject has made its way up to the NY Times with an article about the authors of, "The Death of Environmentalism." As the article reports, many leaders of major environmental groups (such as Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra Club) are trying to stamp out such voices of criticism. Me thinks the skin of the environmental movement is indeed somewhat thin these days, having been scalded myself for saying a few critical comments publicly.

But the Shellenberger and Nordhaus book is not alone -- it joins books and essays by Werbach, Speth, Terborgh, Dowie, and many others who are all pretty solid environmentalists wanting things to work better. And then there is of course Lomborg's "Skeptical Environmentalist," on the more extreme end of the spectrum.

But as Josh Reichert points out in this article, the majority of the public still wants a clean environment.

All of which means these critics really should focus their energies on a single word, "persuasion." This is what was lacking from the Democratic party last year, and is too often lacking in environmentalism -- the psychology of trying to figure, realistically, how you can persuade people to join your view point. Certainly doesn't happen by calling the opposition liars all the time. And it certainly doesn't happen by throwing all your resources into corporate strategizing at the expense of good old fashioned grass roots work.

What's missing from environmentalism today are charismatic speakers (sorry, but Robert Kennedy Jr.'s voice is a bummer) espousing "the environmental ethic," combined with a keener awareness of the cutting edge of communication in the year 2005. Plus, as always, everyone needs to read Mark Dowie's book, "Losing Ground" about three times, at least.


Shellenberger and Nordhaus: Sorry, but Dowie said it all, much more
eloquently, in 1995.

Posted by Randy Olson at February 8, 2005 03:30 AM