When Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger wrote the Death of Environmentalism, controversy raged. They argued – after interviewing more than 25 of the US environmental community’s top leaders, thinkers and funders – people need to search beneath symptoms, that appear to be causes, for deeper issues.
For example, the cause of global warming is too much greenhouse gas. Which leads to action; lets legislate to cut emissions.
So what’s stopping us and this solution? They asked us to consider obstacles like:
- Our failure to articulate an inspiring and positive vision.
- The radical right’s control of all three branches of the US government.
- Trade policies that undermine environmental protections.
- The influence of money in American politics.
- The inability to craft legislative proposals that shape the debate around core American values.
The point is not, just, that there are many barriers. But the solutions we seek to implement depend on how we frame the problem. That is, how deeply we look beneath, while still including, the initial causes like greenhouse emissions.
Death of Environmentalism was written in 2004. Fast forward to today and we want to be picking policy winners. The best solutions are those that we can implement now and for the future. Not the most perfect, ideal, cap and trade system (or other mechanism) if they never becomes law.
In today’s terms it also means standing in other’s shoes – people who don’t believe action on climate change is important. This could vitally avoid a schism like the USA abortion debate – a climate-action fracture Bryan Walsh outlines here.