Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Death of Environmentalism"

In the pits of an economic crisis that is impossible to ignore or even play down, it is important to consider the role of environmentalism in America's current situation. Recession or not, global warming and other environmental issues soldier on relatively undeterred by the fall of Wall Street, Main Street, the housing market, the auto industry, employment rates...the list goes on. While the economic stimulus plan has allocated money for environmental issues, many environmental non-profits are expecting to suffer in the next few years due to more competition for fewer grants and decreased individual donations. 

When millions of people are out of jobs, out of their homes, and out of their savings, do environmental issues really deserve the front burner? Especially with a recent gas price reprieve, many are wondering whether we can't just put global warming, land preservation, natural resource conservation, and wildlife protection on hold for a bit, at least until America is back on solid ground. The answer is yes, environmental issues deserve our attention and NO, we cannot wait to act. 

In "The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World"(2004)  Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus made it abundantly clear that the issues (which were a relative bother just 5 years ago, compared to the catatrophe they are today) we tend to deal with using a check-list mentality are actually all painfully interconnected and inextricable from each other. In 2009, Shellenberger and Nordhaus's critique of the environmental movement has proven to be brilliant if not for its foresight, then certainly for its accute observations. The environmental movement no longer has the luxury of allowing itself to be just a number on a federal, congressional, senatorial, state, or local to-do list. Unemployment, health care, global warming -- the entire fallout of this economic crisis -- must truly be dealt with in all its interrelated complications in order for America's economy and the global economy to dig itself out of the carbon-concentrated, greed infested ditch in which we, as a nation and as a global community, find ourselves embroiled. 

At the time of its release, this article rocked the environmental movement and its leaders to the core. It seems that no systematic critique of the whole system had ever been so effective since the environmental movement really became a cohesive force in the late 1960's and early 1970's. After all, the critique isn't of the environmental movement since its conception, its of the modern efforts at environmentalism under Clinton, and subsequently under W. Bush that have actually constituted a frustrating, if not quite embarassing, fall from grace. 

The crossroads at which America finds itself quite uncomfortably positioned is no longer which president to elect, we've already taken the first step, but how to effectively move forward. With fewer monetary resources, it's not a question of pouring money into everything, it's a matter of formulating on an all encompassing plan and carrying it out. We cannot improve health care, save the auto industry, and prevent global warming without the leaders of all these sectors working together to ensure fair practice in all efforts, jobs and job security, and decreased carbon emissions throughout. This not a game of environmentalists versus big business versus the public health. This should be a team effort to combat the social ills that effect us all, regardless of collar color, so that we can protect and improve all aspects of our environment, not just the natural one. 

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