14 February 2011

A Sheep in Hawk's Clothing? Why "Climate Hawk" Doesn't Soar.

We need less hawking, more doing.

My post last week about Climate Skeptics garnered some interesting responses, including this one from my friend David Connell of The Nature Conservancy on Planet Change.

I agree with Dave that it's time for a big tent.  I also agree that environmentalists are guilty of, as he says, being "suspicious of groups that agree with us on climate change but who disagree with us on other social and political issues." 

I've pointed this out before, specifically in the spring of 2005, when Evangelicals caught hell from Environmentalists for weighing in on climate change.  (See my posts here and here.)

On the face of it, the "climate hawk" movement purports to set up a bigger tent, be more inclusive, and not be about environmentalism with a capital "E."

Yet, I'm not sure one can hide standard issue environmentalism behind a "turn of phrase that is all at once American, forward leaning, tough and – because it borrows from a Republican foreign-policy stance – non-partisan," Dave says, and as was suggested by the term's coiner, David Roberts of Grist.org

To me, "climate hawks" feels a bit disingenuous.  It feels – and perhaps this is why they're not seeing the term gain traction beyond the already converted – like the old liberal agenda dressed up in misappropriated Republican clothes. 

(I found myself wondering what Frank Luntz would say about it.  I reached out to him for comment late last week, but as of this posting have not heard back.)

Even the logo is a sheep in hawk's clothing. 

As its designer Joe Immen explained to Co.Design.com, "I also wanted it to stand out and be visible from a distance, so I used bold colors inspired by the Obama campaign.  This whole notion of 'hawkish' references the military and patriotism, which are concepts that have become disassociated from the idea of taking climate change seriously."

Immen concludes, "So the hawk is about making environmentalism seem like it has some toughness behind it, that it’s grounded in reality."  No starry eyed dreamer this hope hawk!

(I'm not even going to comment on some of what Immen says here; it wouldn't be fair. Suffice it to say it is unclear to me how using the colors of the Obama campaign is meant to make those on the right want to be part of it.) 

Alas, as Dave Connell points out, the "few people who do use the term are the same people who have been talking about climate change all along."

So, I'm left with a few questions:

What if more we spent more energy on building the economic arguments for a reasonable, more inclusive approach to energy development? 

What if we focused on the economic arguments for a competitive economic future?

What if we focused on the positive benefits to health care costs of doing something about pollution? 

What if we focused on the positive benefits of the next energy transition -- to society, the economy, and people everywhere?

What if we stopped debating climate change and started to do something?

In other words, less hawking, more doing.  

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