27 May 2005

Death by Environmentalism?

I've been considering the brouhaha generated over the past several months by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus and their essay "The Death of Environmentalism." I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.

It's not like there is anything really earth-shattering in the piece. The authors take a few potshots at some of the old-guard BINGOs, as they call themselves (they love acronyms: BINGOs stands for Big International Non-Governmental Organizations), some of whom could probably use to have their spreadsheets shorted now and then.

A handful of observations and recommendations for the environmental movement can be found there: 1.) Push hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70%; 2.) Take a step back and reconnect to values and vision; 3.) Stick your neck out and stick to it; 4.) Rethink what is and what is not an environmental problem; and 5.) Push hard for investments in the energy industries of the future. The essay degenerates into a plug for Shellenberger's Apollo Alliance Project and Nordhaus' Strategic Values Science Project and fizzles out before its end.

I wish they'd gone further and really shook up the movement. In my opinion, it's too complacent and too incestuous. We spend more time considering our planning navel and trying to beat the other guy (or BINGO, as they case may be) than really embracing others into the movement (see my post from March 2005 on Enviro-Evangelists). The movement thus far has offered a defensive posture, criticizing the authors for calling for the "death" of anything. (See Carl Pope's whiny rebuttal in Grist.) How much more refreshing if we could admit our shortcomings, change what needs changing, and get down to the real work. It's only an essay for crying out loud.

We will fail if we can't connect our work to the real question of the day: How can the rest of the world achieve the American Dream without screwing up the rest of the world? They want it, they'll get it. We need to figure out a way to lessen their impact and keep our economy going in the face of such challengers.

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