Fixing the Bungled U.S. Environmental Movement
What do recent legislative defeats say about the state of environmentalism in the United States? And where does the U.S. environmental movement stand on it? When it comes to activists and organizers, the current situation stands in marked contrast to the 1970s, when the environmental movement displayed an extraordinary ability to mobilize support in Congress and created an impressive infrastructure of safety agencies and regulatory oversight. But despite a strong organizational base and widespread public support, most critics agree the movement’s political clout has declined over the past decade. Some even claim environmentalism is dead. Sociological research suggests the environmental movement’s seeming lack of influence stems from some fundamental changes in the culture of its organizations and in the traditions of organizing itself. It also may be the result of a mismatch between movement ideals and actual environmental problems and associated public policy options. Recognizing these shortcomings is crucial to translating the energies, passions, and principles of the movement into concrete legislative outcomes and policy solutions.
For more information on the controversy sparked by Schellenberger and Nordhaus’ essay, “The Death of Environmentalism,” and their views on the global warming crisis:
- Read their original essay and other writings.
- Check out this podcast of the authors recorded at the University of California, Berkeley, last fall
- Find extended discussion of their argument in Grist’s special series on the paper.
How big is your ecological footprint?