Climate Change Is Not a Problem 'Environmentalism' Can Solve

By Alexis C. Madrigal

Dave Roberts at Grist delivers an eloquent riff on why climate change is too big a challenge for environmentalism. "Environmentalism has a well-defined socioeconomic niche in American life. There are distinct cultural markers; familiar tropes and debates; particular groups designated to lobby for change and economic interests accustomed to fighting it; conventional methods of litigation, regulation, and legislation," he writes. "Environmental issues take a very specific shape. The thing is, that shape doesn't fit climate change." It's a smart and sad piece, very worthy of your inspection. But it leaves you wondering, if not greens, who?

If we meet the challenge of sustainability -- and it's a big if -- it will be a tidal shift in human history on par with the agriculture, industrialization, or democracy itself.
 
"Environmentalism" is simply not equipped to transform the basis of human culture. It grew up to address a specific, bounded set of issues. For 50 years, American environmental politics has been about restraining the amount of damage industries can do. Environmental campaigners have developed a set of strategies for that purpose, designed to overcome the resistance of industries and politicians to such restraints. And they've been successful in a number of areas. So when climate change entered American politics via environmentalism, that is the model into which it was slotted. Environmental campaigners set about restraining the amount of greenhouse gases industry can emit, and industry set about resisting. Greens and industry fought ferociously, but in the wake of the victories of the'70s, the public largely watched with indifference, barring a few episodes where support swung one way or another (usually as much due to economic circumstances as anything).

Read the full story at Grist.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/08/climate-change-is-not-a-problem-environmentalism-can-solve/61232/