Thursday, April 28, 2005

Women Power: Women in Science

Filipina Einstein?
Posted 11:33pm (Mla time) April 28, 2005
By Michael L. Tan
Inquirer News Service

LAST January, Harvard president Larry Summers stirred controversy when he tried to explain gender disparities in science, that is, men doing better than women in terms of numbers and occupying high positions.

He gave three possible explanations, which I'm paraphrasing here: (a) women are not as interested as men in sacrificing for high-powered jobs; (b) men have more intrinsic aptitude for high-level science; and (c) women may be victims of discrimination. Summers suggested that the importance of the explanations "ranks in exactly the order that I just described."

Not surprisingly, the speech drew scathing criticism, including a vote of no confidence from Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

It's an old stereotype common in Western countries that males are "intrinsically" better at math and science. As "proof," they'll point to scores in the math tests conducted in countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), whose membership consists of more than 40 developed countries, where males generally do better than females in math and science tests. Then they'll cite statistics showing that more males than females get doctoral degrees, or occupy top positions in science institutions.

All kinds of explanations have been advanced to explain these differences, mainly centering on brain anatomy and physiology, but these explanations have also been challenged, mainly in the way they suggest a fixed handicap on the part of women. Biologists themselves (perhaps women biologists) say there's more to these gender disparities than the brain.

Motivated Filipina

I've actually never been able to understand the gender stereotypes in the United States and Europe because in all my years of teaching in the Philippines, it's the females who do better than the males.

I've taught only at the college level but results from the National Elementary Achievement Test and the National Secondary Achievement Test, which the Department of Education used to require in all schools, support my observations. A few years back, I was asked to review the statistics and I noticed right away that the females on average did better than males not just in math and science but in all subjects.

It's now the season of graduations and if you look at the coed schools, you'll find more female students running off with honors. At the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, 7 of the 10 summa cum laude graduates this year were female. And, mind you, they got their summa cum laude in fields like mathematics and molecular biology.

So, are our women smarter than our men?

Time Magazine's March 28, 2005 issue, which had a cover story on the gender gap, described a fishing village in Iceland where the girls did far better than boys with math. The explanation was simple: motivation. The boys dreamt of leaving school so they could go off to the sea. The girls, on the other hand, saw school as a way out of their village, and therefore studied harder.

I'm certain something similar is happening in the Philippines on a national scale. Paradoxically, the motivation comes from a combination of opportunities as well as discrimination. On one hand, there are more job opportunities now for our women, locally as well as overseas. Very early in life, our girls see this and are encouraged to work harder in school.


Ironically, the motivation to do better in school may also come from discrimination. Because males are still more privileged, a girl growing up in a low-income household suffers more from the deprivation and poverty and becomes more determined to finish high school or college, knowing that a diploma may help her to attain a better life.

Even more ironically, gender discrimination in school admissions could push girls to work harder. Medical schools, for example, generally require higher grade point averages for female applicants because they feel that women graduates tend to squander their medical education by getting married and having children. Yet all our medical schools end up admitting many more female students because more of them qualify. Again, this may be because the female undergraduate student vying for medical school will work harder to get a higher grade point average.

Alas, even if our girls excel in schools, out in the real world they still end up trailing behind the men. In the area of science and technology, they often do all the hard work in research but are unable to make their way up through the bureaucratic ladders. Biology may play a role here, but not because of brain differences. Instead, the handicap comes because their careers are interrupted by childbearing and childrearing. Let's face it, both in government and private sectors (more so in the latter), employers will be quicker to pass up a woman for promotion because they see her as unreliable, simply because she could get pregnant and would need to go on maternity leave.

Raising Einstein

It's time, too, that we look at how we might be encouraging a gender gap in our schools. Even if the females generally fare better, guidance counselors and parents may subconsciously discourage children from seeking careers in science and engineering, simply because these are seen as male domains. The discrimination could start quite early: I've met many parents who still think those Lego construction toys are meant only for boys.

Think, too, of the way we socialize our sons and daughters. Sons are taught to be aggressive, to fight for their rights. Daughters are taught to be patient, to keep their silence even if they've been treated unfairly. Project several years ahead when they begin to work: that daughter may be brighter than all her male work colleagues but if she's passed up for a grant, or for a promotion, she's likely to just accept the injustice as part of life.

We need to rethink our gender biases, maybe even turning some of our perceptions upside down. For example, we could ask, "If men are supposed to be smarter, why is it that autism and learning disorders are so much more common in males?" Biologically, it may seem that males are actually disadvantaged.

If we were more gender sensitive in schools and at home, will we soon be producing a Filipina Einstein? I doubt it, but it's not because of a gender difference. In the international tests for science and math, both our males and females have fared poorly, close to the bottom of the list. There are serious problems in our educational system that account for this dismal performance. Yes, we are in demand in the world labor market, but for jobs that do not use the full potentials of the Filipino or the Filipina.

©2005 all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Going to the Other Side: Renewable Energy for a Change

Switching to renewable energy gets easier
From cars to homes, more Americans trying that lifestyle
By Brad Foss
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:08 a.m. ET April 27, 2005

For people like Ronald Cascio, who fuels his pickup with a soybean oil derivative, and J.D. Doliner, whose home is partly solar powered, the high price of energy isn’t a worry.
That doesn’t mean their renewable energy preferences come cheap. In fact, it requires an extra financial commitment to wean one’s home or vehicle off fossil fuels.

Nonetheless, a growing number of Americans are embracing cleaner technologies and more
energy-efficient lifestyles. It makes them feel good and, depending on how high prices rise for traditional energy sources, they say renewables might even make economic sense over the long haul.

“Some people spend their money on jet-skis and boats,” explained Cascio, who lives in Berlin, Md. “So, say we spend another $1,000 a year on fuel than we have to, what’s the big deal? We feel good about it. You can’t put a price on that.”

Costs, benefits
Cascio regularly spends about $3.35 a gallon for pure biodiesel, chemically altered soybean oil which is fully compatible with the standard diesel engine in his 1989 Ford truck. But because diesel vehicles are nearly a third more efficient than those that run on gasoline, Cascio said his choice of fuel isn’t looking so bad right now that gasoline averages more than $2.20 a gallon nationwide.

In the case of Doliner, who lives in Arlington, Va., it may take more than three decades for the $18,000 solar panel system she and her husband installed to pay for itself. But the former venture capitalist said the investment is worth it merely for the “psychic income” she enjoys.

The Doliners recently renovated their home to be about 50 percent more energy efficient, but they still get about two-thirds of their electricity from the grid and rely on natural gas for home heating and to back up their solar water heater.

“But we are having an impact on the number of power plants that are built,” Doliner said.

'Cheaper to save energy'
That’s right, said Paul Torcellini, who researches residential and commercial building designs for the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels requires two behavioral changes: adopting renewables and boosting energy efficiency, he said.

“It is much cheaper to save energy than it is to make it, by at least a factor of two to one,” Torcellini said. Anyone considering solar panels should buy the most energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs and make sure their walls and windows are properly insulated, he said.

Those interested in biodiesel simply need a diesel-engine vehicle. To show its support of the technology, DaimlerChrysler ships its new Jeep Liberty off the assembly line fueled with B5, which contains 5 percent biodiesel. The most common grade of biodiesel at the pump, B20, is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel.

The amount of biodiesel sold in the U.S. has grown from 500,000 gallons in 1999 to roughly 30 million gallons in 2004, said Jenna Higgins, a spokeswoman for the National Biodiesel Board. By comparison, the U.S. burns more than 100 billion gallons of gasoline each year and 4 billion gallons of ethanol, a fuel additive derived from corn.

The Solar Energy Industry Association estimates there are enough photovoltaic panels installed in the U.S. to power about 286,000 homes, up from 60,000 homes in 2000. A considerably smaller group of enthusiasts — perhaps 20,000 homeowners nationwide — have erected wind turbines on their property, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Push for more tax incentivesWider acceptance of alternative energy by consumers will require a significant expansion of what is now only a limited patchwork of government refunds and tax incentives.

“If the government subsidized renewable energy the way it does oil and gas, it would be mainstream in no time,” said Mark Prebilic, of Poolesville, Md. He received a $2,000 refund from the state government and a $2,000 tax credit from the federal government when he installed solar panels in 2001 that now provide about a third of his home’s power needs. Prebilic expects to make back the $13,000 investment he made in a little more than 20 years.

Relatively generous government incentives — and ample sunshine — in California has led to the construction of entire neighborhoods with homes that harness the sun’s energy, said Rhone Resch, executive director of the Solar Energy Industry Association in Washington. In Sacramento, Premier Homes sold 95 homes over the past year in the $250,000-$450,000 range that were equipped with solar panels for electricity.

Indeed, Americans tanking up with biofuel or installing solar panels are hardly back-to-the-land types denying themselves modern amenities and living off the grid. Doliner’s 1,500-square-foot suburban home is “green,” with roof shingles made from recycled tires, carpet made from corn starch and insulation that is partly soy-based.

“Our house isn’t made of twigs and granola,” she said.
© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
© 2005

Blogger's Note: An interesting article on environmentale economics

Environmental economics Are you being served?
Apr 21st 2005 PANAMA CITY From The Economist print edition
Environmental entries are starting to appear on the balance sheet. Perhaps soon, the best things in life will not be free

AT THE Miraflores lock on the Panama Canal it is possible to watch the heartbeat of international trade in action. One by one, giant ships piled high with multi-coloured containers creep through the lock's narrow confines and are disgorged neatly on the other side. If it were not for the canal, these ships would have to make a two-to-three-week detour around South America. That would have a significant effect on the price of goods around much of the world. It is therefore sobering to consider that each ship requires 200m litres of fresh water to operate the locks of the canal and that, over the years, this water has been drying up.

Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, in Panama, think that reforesting the canal's denuded watershed would help regulate the supply. One of them, Robert Stallard, a hydrologist and biogeochemist who also works for the United States Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado, has operated in the country for two decades, and knows the terrain well. A deforested, grass-covered watershed would release far more water in total than a forested one, he admits, but that water would arrive in useless surges rather than as a useful steady stream. A forested watershed makes a lot more sense.

Another problem caused by deforestation is that it allows more sediment and nutrients to flow into the canal. Sediment clogs the channel directly. Nutrients do so indirectly, by stimulating the growth of waterweeds. Both phenomena require regular, and expensive, dredging. More trees would ameliorate these difficulties, trapping sediments and nutrients as well as regulating the supply of fresh water. Planting forests around the Panama Canal would thus have the same effect as building vast reservoirs and filtration beds.

Viewed this way, any scheme to reforest the canal's watershed is, in fact, an investment in infrastructure. Normally, this would be provided by the owner. But in this case the owner is the Panamanian government, and Panama is in debt, has a poor credit rating and finds it expensive to borrow money. And yet investing in the canal's watershed clearly makes economic sense.

Who will pay?
In the case of the Panama Canal, the answer may turn out to be John Forgach, an entrepreneur, banker and chairman of ForestRe, a forestry insurance company based in London. Mr Forgach's plan is to use the financial markets to arrange for companies dependent on the canal to pay for the reforestation. Working in collaboration with several as-yet-unnamed insurance and reinsurance companies, Mr Forgach is trying to put together a deal in which these companies would underwrite a 25-year bond that would pay for the forest to be replanted. The companies would then ask those of their big clients who use the canal to buy the bond. Firms such as Wal-Mart, and a number of Asian carmakers, which currently insure against the huge losses they would suffer if the canal were closed, would pay a reduced premium if they bought forest bonds.

This is meant to be a good business deal, but it is structured in a way that brings environmental and social benefits, too. The forest will have a diverse mixture of species that the Smithsonian's scientists have demonstrated grow well (thus pleasing environmentalists), are valuable, and which local people have deemed to be useful for food and medicine. It is also a test case for Mr Forgach. If he succeeds, he will try it elsewhere because he thinks there is an opportunity in treating the regulation of water and climate as a utility—in other words, as a service for which people will pay money. This, he says, should be a perfectly viable investment.

In from the cold
In the case of the canal, the financial value of reforestation is clear even if who pays for it is not. But putting a cash value on what are called variously “environmental”, “ecosystem” or “ecological” services has, historically, been a fraught process.
Early attempts at such valuation resulted in impressive but unsound figures that were seized on by environmental advocates and then, when they were discredited, used by opponents to tar the whole idea. Now, though, things have improved.
First of all, science is producing abundant evidence that the natural environment provides a wide range of economic benefits beyond the obvious ones of timber and fish. Ecologists now know a great deal more than they used to about how ecosystems work, which habitats deliver which services, and in what quantity those services are supplied. Last month, for example, saw the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the first global survey of ecological services. Its authors warn that attention will have to be paid to these services if global development goals are to be met.

But the only way this can happen is if ecological services have sound, real (and realistic) values attached to them. As “Valuing Ecosystem Services”, a report written recently for America's National Research Council, points out, the difficult part is providing a precise description of the links between the structures and functions of various bits of the environment, so that proper values can be calculated. What this means is that the more there is known about the ecology of, say, a forest, the better the valuation of the services it provides will be. Fortunately, according to two reports published by the World Bank at the end of 2004, significant progress has been made towards developing techniques for valuing environmental costs and benefits. There is, says one of these reports, no longer any excuse for considering them unquantifiable.

The turning point for this way of looking at things was in 1997. In that year, the city government of New York realised that changing agricultural practices meant it would need to act to preserve the quality of the city's drinking water. One way to have done this would have been to install new water-filtration plants, but that would have cost $4 billion-6 billion up front, together with annual running costs of $250m. Instead, the government is paying to preserve the rural nature of the Catskill Mountains from which New York gets most of its water. It is spending $250m on buying land to prevent development, and paying farmers $100m a year to minimise water pollution.

Many of the valuation studies done since then have involved water, probably because it is so obviously a valuable ecological service. Forests and swamps (or “wetlands”, to give the latter their politically correct modern moniker) filter and purify water, and act as reservoirs to capture rain and melting snow. When such areas become degraded, it may be necessary to make expensive investments in treatment plants, dams and other flood-control measures. Several other American cities, following in New York's footsteps, have calculated that every dollar invested in environmental protection would save anywhere from $7.50 to $200 on the cost of what would otherwise have to be spent on filtration and water-treatment facilities.

Nor it is it only rich countries that benefit. In 2003, Muthurajawela wetland sanctuary, just north of Colombo in Sri Lanka, was calculated by the World Conservation Union to be providing services worth $8m a year—or $260,000 per square kilometre. These services include the cleaning of sewage and waste water from industry, as well as flood attenuation and the support of downstream fisheries. At the same time, the waste-water-processing capacity of a swamp in Uganda was calculated to be even more valuable than this, at least per unit area. Its 5.5 square kilometres provided a service worth $2m.

When valuation has been done, payment can follow. In Cape Town, South Africa, for example, it proved cheaper to restore the town's watershed to its native vegetation than to divert water from elsewhere, or to create reservoirs. And there are a wide range of other cities and towns in the poor world that use ecological payments to protect their water supplies—from Quito in Ecuador with 1.2m people to Yamabal in El Salvador with only 3,800.

More complex benefits can be paid for in more complex ways. A scheme in Costa Rica, which costs $57m a year, is paid for partly by hydroelectric-power producers, who receive services such as stream-flow regulation, sediment retention and erosion control, partly by private consumers of water, who use it for irrigation, and partly by the country's government, in order to supply towns with water and maintain the area's scenic beauty for recreation and ecotourism.
Meanwhile in Colombia and France, there are schemes financed entirely by the private sector. Large agricultural producers in the Cauca Valley pay fees for watershed-management projects, such as erosion control and reforestation. And Perrier-Vittel, a bottler of mineral water, has found it necessary to reforest parts of heavily farmed watersheds and also to pay farmers to switch to modern facilities and organic farming in order to preserve the quality of some of its products.

Valuing ecosystem services can also point to places where inaction is best. After fires in Croatia had damaged many forests, a study was done to see if restoration was worthwhile given their value to the tourist industry. Examination of 11 sites revealed that the net benefits varied significantly (see chart). Some sites were not worthy candidates and were dropped.
As scientific understanding of ecological services improves, new financial opportunities emerge. For example, the importance of insect pollination to the quality and quantity of agricultural crops such as coffee, almonds and apples, has only recently become appreciated. Last year, a study in Costa Rica found that on one farm alone the natural pollination of coffee by insects was worth $60,000. Coffee yields were 20% higher on plots that lay within a kilometre of natural forest.

Simply having this kind of information could change the way that coffee farmers view areas such as forest and wild grasslands on or near their property. Looked at another way, it might encourage owners of forests that help to pollinate a neighbour's crops to demand payment. Indeed, a version of this sort of blackmail already happens on an international scale. Elliot Morley, Britain's minister for the environment, says that developing countries sometimes say to him, “give us the money or the forest gets it”.

The bee's knees
Putting a proper value on ecological services is bound up with another economic anomaly that haunts environmental economics. This is the creation of what economists term externalities—economic impacts made when those taking a decision do not bear all the costs (or reap all the gains) of their actions. When a piece of natural habitat is ploughed, for example, the conversion may make sense to the land owner, but it may also damage fisheries downstream, increase flooding and clog rivers with sediment. This makes those who lose out angry. It can also, in some circumstances, subtract from, rather than add to, a country's total wealth.

The problems discussed above all involve externalities as well as the need to price ecological services correctly. If Catskill farmers had not changed their methods, for example, New York City's government would not have faced the question of how to keep its water potable. But when an externality affects only a relatively small, recognisable group of people, negotiation between the parties can often resolve the matter. If, however, an externality is a public “bad” (ie, the opposite of a public good), such deals are not possible.

Public goods are those which are in everybody's interest to have, but in no one's interest to provide. Clean air, for example, or, more controversially, the preservation of rare species of plant or animal.

In such situations, the first reaction is frequently to legislate to try to ban the externality. But a more efficient solution can often be what is known as a cap and trade scheme, in which legislation creates both an overall limit to the amount of the externality in question, whether it be a polluting chemical or the destruction of a type of habitat, and a market in the right to impose the externality within that limit.

Cap and trade schemes are best known in the context of polluting gases. Sulphur-dioxide-emission rights have been traded in America for years, and in countries that have signed up to the Kyoto protocol on climate change a market is starting to develop in carbon dioxide. But cap and trade can work in other contexts as well. Fisheries are a well-tested example, while in Australia, farmers who use irrigation (which increases soil salinity) can buy “transpiration credits” from forest owners whose trees, by sucking up water in the process known as transpiration, reduce salinity.

In America, similar markets in wetlands and endangered species have arisen. These are run through so-called mitigation banks. Such banks are created by permanently protecting privately owned swamps, or land that is inhabited by endangered species. This creates a supply of environmental “credits”. Those who want to destroy wetlands, or species-rich habitats, for agricultural or development purposes are able to buy credits from a mitigation bank allowing them to do so. New federal guidelines mean that mitigation banking is becoming popular in many American states. Indeed, it is even starting to finance the emergence of companies dedicated to restoring wetlands, or building them from scratch.

Such liquid markets are different from the fee-for-service arrangements that pertain to such things as watershed management. And, as if to underscore the arrival of environmental trading in the marketplace, two recent publications have been launched to track the field. Platts, best known for newsletters that report prices in energy markets, started a newsletter called Emissions Daily in February. This covers the carbon-dioxide market in Europe, and the sulphur-dioxide and nitrogen-oxide markets in America, publishing daily price assessments for the leading contracts. The second publication is a website called the Ecosystem Marketplace, which tracks markets and payment schemes for ecological services such as water quality, carbon sequestration (planting trees as a way of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) and habitat preservation.

The principle having been established, traders are now looking for other opportunities to arbitrage pollution. One promising area is the trading of nitrate emissions between factories and farmers. Farmers' emissions are generally less regulated than those of factories but—probably because of that—farmers can often reduce their nitrate output at a fraction of the cost that a factory would have to incur. Trading between the two means that pollution standards can be met more cheaply.

The greening of the City
All these payments and new markets have not gone unnoticed in the City of London, and other financial centres. People there are watching closely for new financial opportunities, particularly within carbon-dioxide markets—and banks such as ABN AMRO plan to start selling “new environmental financial products”. While the City has little interest these days in specifically “green” investments, there is something of a greenward shift in the way its firms handle large-scale project finance. Almost two years ago, ten of the world's largest banks signed an agreement to address the social and environmental impacts of the projects they financed (at least, those worth more than $50m). The rules were dubbed “The Equator Principles”, and 29 financial institutions have now adopted them. An article published this year in a Euromoney handbook estimated that such “Equator” banks represented about 75% of the project-finance market in 2003. In its sustainability report for 2004, ABN AMRO reviewed 16 deals that had been subjected to the Equator principles. One had been rejected. Four were approved. The rest were modified to fit in with the principles.

Is it working? Of course, banks are not keen to discuss their businesses in any detail, so there is no real way of knowing. It is easy to be cynical about the principles as little more than “greenwash”. Nevertheless, Mr Forgach explains that when projects are under consideration they have to be screened with a “green check”. He describes this as a series of questions, analyses and consultations on the impact a project will have on biodiversity, the climate and “footprint stuff” (a measure of the consumption of ecological resources).

From the perspective of someone wanting to borrow money, this means that green issues have to be considered from the beginning, and possibly even acted on. So, the proposers of a mining project might have to consider damage to the river and to downstream fisheries of any additional sediment the mine would produce. Borrowers may have to change their plans (as they did in 11 of ABN AMRO's deals last year) so that they are more environmentally friendly, or offset damage by protecting land elsewhere.

In effect, this means that the environment has been brought on to the balance sheet. Furthermore, because insurance companies recognise that the environment can be a huge portion of the risk in a project, there may be a financial incentive for paying to protect it.

Valuation is only ever part of the answer, because not everything is for sale. Mr Forgach says he has calculated that the Panamanians could get far more for their lovely fresh water by shutting down the canal, bottling the water and selling it. Running a canal is a crazy waste of water, he says, but America would not let Panama shut the canal.

Still, many conservationists dislike valuation. Some misunderstand it as an approach that ignores cultural and spiritual values. It does not. It simply converts these values into monetary units that can highlight the cost of a course of action. Of course, it might not be appropriate in some cases for this value to be a factor in making a conservation decision. For example, closing the canal and selling water, or building tower blocks on the site of St Paul's cathedral in London, might be perfectly rational from an economic perspective, but also very unlikely to happen.

The valuation of ecosystem services is not without its difficulties. Nevertheless, the fact that there is a growing consensus about how and where it is appropriate is an important step forward for economists and environmentalists. In 1817, David Ricardo, a pioneering economist, noted that abundance in nature was rarely rewarded: “where she is munificently beneficent she always works gratis.” But if nature pays, who then will pay for nature?

Is Environmentalism Dead? #2

Blogger's Note: Sometimes the ball really gets going. Here's a rejoinding article with regards to "The Death of Environmentalism"

Environmental economics: Rescuing environmentalism
Apr 21st 2005 From The Economist print edition
Market forces could prove the environment's best friend—if only greens could learn to love them

“THE environmental movement's foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its very institutions are outmoded. Today environmentalism is just another special interest.” Those damning words come not from any industry lobby or right-wing think-tank. They are drawn from “The Death of Environmentalism”, an influential essay published recently by two greens with impeccable credentials. They claim that environmental groups are politically adrift and dreadfully out of touch.

They are right. In America, greens have suffered a string of defeats on high-profile issues. They are losing the battle to prevent oil drilling in Alaska's wild lands, and have failed to spark the public's imagination over global warming. Even the stridently ungreen George Bush has failed to galvanise the environmental movement. The solution, argue many elders of the sect, is to step back from day-to-day politics and policies and “energise” ordinary punters with talk of global-warming calamities and a radical “vision of the future commensurate with the magnitude of the crisis”.

Europe's green groups, while politically stronger, are also starting to lose their way intellectually. Consider, for example, their invocation of the woolly “precautionary principle” to demonise any complex technology (next-generation nuclear plants, say, or genetically modified crops) that they do not like the look of. A more sensible green analysis of nuclear power would weigh its (very high) economic costs and (fairly low) safety risks against the important benefit of generating electricity with no greenhouse-gas emissions.

Small victories and bigger defeats
The coming into force of the UN's Kyoto protocol on climate change might seem a victory for Europe's greens, but it actually masks a larger failure. The most promising aspect of the treaty—its innovative use of market-based instruments such as carbon-emissions trading—was resisted tooth and nail by Europe's greens. With courageous exceptions, American green groups also remain deeply suspicious of market forces.

If environmental groups continue to reject pragmatic solutions and instead drift toward Utopian (or dystopian) visions of the future, they will lose the battle of ideas. And that would be a pity, for the world would benefit from having a thoughtful green movement. It would also be ironic, because far-reaching advances are already under way in the management of the world's natural resources—changes that add up to a different kind of green revolution. This could yet save the greens (as well as doing the planet a world of good).

“Mandate, regulate, litigate.” That has been the green mantra. And it explains the world's top-down, command-and-control approach to environmental policymaking. Slowly, this is changing. Yesterday's failed hopes, today's heavy costs and tomorrow's demanding ambitions have been driving public policy quietly towards market-based approaches. One example lies in the assignment of property rights over “commons”, such as fisheries, that are abused because they belong at once to everyone and no one. Where tradable fishing quotas have been issued, the result has been a drop in over-fishing. Emissions trading is also taking off. America led the way with its sulphur-dioxide trading scheme, and today the EU is pioneering carbon-dioxide trading with the (albeit still controversial) goal of slowing down climate change.

These, however, are obvious targets. What is really intriguing are efforts to value previously ignored “ecological services”, both basic ones such as water filtration and flood prevention, and luxuries such as preserving wildlife. At the same time, advances in environmental science are making those valuation studies more accurate. Market mechanisms can then be employed to achieve these goals at the lowest cost. Today, countries from Panama to Papua New Guinea are investigating ways to price nature in this way (see article).

Rachel Carson meets Adam Smith
If this new green revolution is to succeed, however, three things must happen. The most important is that prices must be set correctly. The best way to do this is through liquid markets, as in the case of emissions trading. Here, politics merely sets the goal. How that goal is achieved is up to the traders.

A proper price, however, requires proper information. So the second goal must be to provide it. The tendency to regard the environment as a “free good” must be tempered with an understanding of what it does for humanity and how. Thanks to the recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the World Bank's annual “Little Green Data Book” (released this week), that is happening. More work is needed, but thanks to technologies such as satellite observation, computing and the internet, green accounting is getting cheaper and easier.
Which leads naturally to the third goal, the embrace of cost-benefit analysis. At this, greens roll their eyes, complaining that it reduces nature to dollars and cents. In one sense, they are right. Some things in nature are irreplaceable—literally priceless. Even so, it is essential to consider trade-offs when analysing almost all green problems. The marginal cost of removing the last 5% of a given pollutant is often far higher than removing the first 5% or even 50%: for public policy to ignore such facts would be inexcusable.

If governments invest seriously in green data acquisition and co-ordination, they will no longer be flying blind. And by advocating data-based, analytically rigorous policies rather than pious appeals to “save the planet”, the green movement could overcome the scepticism of the ordinary voter. It might even move from the fringes of politics to the middle ground where most voters reside.

Whether the big environmental groups join or not, the next green revolution is already under way. Rachel Carson, the crusading journalist who inspired greens in the 1950s and 60s, is joining hands with Adam Smith, the hero of free-marketeers. The world may yet leapfrog from the dark ages of clumsy, costly, command-and-control regulations to an enlightened age of informed, innovative, incentive-based greenery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's blogging time!

Blogger's Note: It's blogging time!

Online Extra: Six Tips for Corporate Bloggers
You can't afford to miss this wave -- and even more important, you can't afford to do it wrong Blogs represent an explosion of information, from inside and outside companies. Those who figure out how to mine this treasure while protecting their own gems will fare just fine in the new world. But it's a risky world, full of hazards. Here are six tips for companies setting out into the blogosphere:

No. 1: Train Your Bloggers
Who's on your communications team? It used to be a small group, but now everyone who blogs at the company is spreading the message. And it's important that these people be trained.

If a company blogger spills financial information, it can get you in hot water with regulators. Other leaks could help competitors or lead to embarrassing revelations about top executives or the workplace. No wonder many companies are worried about blogging. "They're really scared of it," says Giovanni Rodriguez, a vice-president at Silicon Valley's Eastwick Communications. "They know what mistakes can be made."

The natural instinct is to restrict employee blogging. But that can be shortsighted. Every employee who blogs can be making contacts with potential customers and enhancing the company brand.

If bloggers become part of a company's communications effort, what does the old PR department do? Increasingly, it'll train and coordinate the bloggers.

No. 2: Be Careful with Fake Blogs
Companies are eager to establish one-to-one links with customers, but they're often reluctant to plunge blindly into the blogosphere. So they set up fake blogs. These are blogs that are created by corporate marketing departments to promote a service, product, or brand using a fake character or name. McDonalds (MCD ) established one and linked it to a Super Bowl commercial featuring a peculiar French fry. Captain Morgan runs a rum blog.

These pseudo-blogs are risky because many of the most passionate bloggers view them as an affront to their community, and each one stands out like a billboard in Yosemite. When the blogosphere gets hold of a fake, it can turn it into a public roasting of the company.

So should companies avoid fake blogs altogether? That's hard to say, because sometimes the buzz is welcome, even if it's negative. Following the launch of the McDonald's site, bloggers booed. Yet a McDonald's spokesman says the blog, which received more than 2 million visits, "was keeping the ad alive. It generated a lot of great buzz."

The upshot: Your choice on fakes, but the risks are high.

No. 3: Track Blogs
This is the easiest and most important step. First, poke around online and find the most influential bloggers following your company. Read them every day. Then do automated tracking of discussions. Companies ranging from startup PubSub to tech giant IBM (IBM ) can help, since they offer services that comb through this mountain of data, turning it into market research for customers.

Big Blue is testing advanced technology called Web Fountain, which analyzes billions of postings to see if they predict spikes in consumer behavior. Last year, Web Fountain plumbed the blog world for buzz on books and then compared it to sales data from (AMZN ). In about half the cases, researchers could predict the sales growth that would follow the buzz.

Why is it important to do different kinds of tracking? Postings even from small-time bloggers can get picked up by a search engine, amplified by a top blogger, and eventually break into the mainstream. Last summer, blogs picked up an anonymous post in an online discussion forum from someone who boasted he could break Kryptonite bike locks with a Bic pen. Within a week the story had bubbled up to The New York Times, and Kryptonite recalled the locks.

No. 4: PR Truly Means Public Relations
Blogs knock down the barriers between a company and its customers.

Businesses need to take that into account and adapt. Some companies, such as yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, start blogs to build loyalty and address people's comments and concerns. For businesses that don't set up corporate blogs, pinpointing and developing relationships with the top 10 or so influential bloggers in their area is key.

Netflix (FLIX ) figured this lesson out after a rocky start. A fan named Mike Kaltschnee started a blog called Hacking Netflix that was full of news about online movie-rental company's services. Kaltschnee asked for a closer relationship with Netflix, including access to executives and briefings on news releases. Netflix didn't pay attention to him -- until he wrote about his frustrations on his blog last June. The posting was picked up and spread madly through the blogosphere. Talk about bad PR.

At about the same time, Netflix hired Michele Turner as vice-president for product marketing. She promptly reached a working arrangement with Kaltschnee, whose blog attracts 100,000 visitors a month. The two speak regularly, and Kaltschnee provides Netflix with insights that he's hearing from readers.

Kaltschnee's suggestions have helped lead to a new service called Profiles. Launched in January, Profiles allows customers to create up to five separate lists of requested films per subscription. So, a family with a subscription could have separate lists for the children and the parents.

No. 5: Be Transparent
No hard and fast rules for navigating the worlds of blogging and marketing exist. Still, a few principles are emerging, including the importance of full disclosure. Being open about the kind of marketing you're doing is critical.

Ask Stephen King, the president and CEO of Marqui, a Web-services marketing company. Late last year, King and consultant Marc Canter cooked up the notion of paying bloggers to market King's company. The key to the venture's success was being completely open about it.

In November, Marqui began paying some 20 bloggers $2,400 each to write about the company once a week for three months. "We're a small company selling what we believe to be a creative marketing tool," King says. "We wanted to take creative approaches to the market."

Here's how Marqui ensures openness. Everything about Marqui's blog program is up on its site, including the contract, a list of the bloggers working for Marqui, and background material Marqui sends to bloggers. The bloggers have total control over what they write. They can criticize the software or write at length about it. The only requirement was they have to mention Marqui once a week.

The program stirred up a hornet's nest online. But the discussion didn't center on Marqui's intentions. Instead, the bloggers debated whether this kind of program made sense and under what circumstances. Molly Holzschlag, a Web designer who was part of the program used her blog,, to discuss the issue as well as do the blogging. Holzschlag ultimately decided to stop blogging for Marqui because for her it felt forced.

Yet Marqui benefited from the buzz about the novelty of what it was attempting. King says the program was a success. The number of people who visited Marqui's site rose from 2,000 in November to 150,000 in December. And the company decided to continue the program after the first three-month period ended.

No. 6: Rethink Your Corporate Secrets
Consider one secret you have under lock and key at your company. Maybe it's a list of projects for next year or details of the scandalous bill from the latest software installation. There are all kinds of things you're trained not to leak to competitors.

But what's the value of a locked up secret? In the world of blogs, you may find more value in sharing what you used to think of as secrets. Blogs are certain to make you rethink what should be squirreled away, because companies are increasingly sharing such information to win new partners and harvest fresh ideas. This doesn't mean they don't keep secrets or that you shouldn't -- only that you should reevaluate whether you can get more out of sharing information or keeping a lock on it.

Take the example of San Francisco's ThinkEquity, a boutique investment bank. In recent months, CEO Michael Moe launched a blog in which he shared information, including preliminary research, that used to be more hush-hush.

Moe now looks at the blogosphere as an enormous research tool for the nascent industries ThinkEquity focuses on. Whether he blogs about nano solar technology or an obscure niche in biotech, experts abound in the blogosphere, and they contribute their knowledge. "We're in the experimentation phase," says Moe. "But I'm convinced this is part of the future for research."

ThinkEquity not only shares loads of information that used to be private but is figuring out how to cull insights from a wide range of bloggers -- some unreliable, a few of them liars. But Moe says the extra work involved in writing and figuring out which blogs to follow is worth it. "I sure as hell didn't want to wake up some morning and find out that some other investment bank was doing it," he says.

ThinkEquity is just one of the companies finding that a few of its secrets are worth more in the open than gathering dust in a strongbox.

By Stephen Baker and Heather Green in New York
MAY 2, 2005 ,

Blogging: A Primer

This 15th-century German devised technology to manufacture books. Gutenberg failed as a businessman and died poor. Yet his printing press, involving movable type, gave birth to mass media -- a world in which a handful of publishers can reach audiences of millions. That model is under threat today.

Posting to a blog on the go, from a camera phone or handheld device. These postings can be random or tied to news, such as pictures of the iPod Shuffle when it was launched at Apple Computer's MacWorld, or the birth of a baby.

Video blogging, where individuals and companies post video diaries online, began to take off last year. The trend is spurring the revival of online video distribution, the use of vlogs to sell ads, and the designing of corporate blog sites. Microsoft's Channel 9 video blog, set up in April, helps the company communicate directly with its all-important developer community.

The nascent technology allows individuals to create their own radio shows and deliver them automatically over the Web. They can be played on computers or any mobile devices, such as the iPod (hence the name). Although they were created by bloggers and propagated by the blogosphere, the Establishment is jumping in. In April, Paris Hilton announced she would do podcasts promoting her new movie, House of Wax.

Really Simple Syndication is a snappy way to track blogs. Individuals sign up to have updates sent automatically to their computers, making it convenient to follow blogs. Around 6 million people, or 5% of the U.S. online audience, use RSS, according to a Pew survey. Companies such as Yahoo! and Associated Press are adopting RSS to keep audiences loyal and to attract new users.
An expression used when someone loses a job because of blogging. This happened to flight attendant Ellen Simonetti at Delta Air Lines. Firings can occur when a company finds an employee's post questionable or too revealing about sensitive data. Where does the name come from? Heather Armstrong, who lost her job because her Web site,, included stinging satire of her former employer.

Eyewitness or investigative reporting by a blogger adds new insight to events not covered by traditional media. Examples: Early personal accounts of the tsunami in December or digging into the authenticity of memos used by CBS's Dan Rather in his report on President Bush's National Guard duty.

Any publication, radio station, or TV news channel that doesn't recognize the power shift created by the blogosphere and doesn't adopt blogging. The MSM are derided by bloggers for lecturing and adhering to what they call false objectivity.

Fake blogs created by corporate marketing departments to promote a service, product, or brand. The flog's writer often uses a fake name. Derided by bloggers, fake blogs are an increasing trend. McDonald's created a flog to accompany its Super Bowl ad about the mock discovery of a french fry shaped like Lincoln, while Captain Morgan created a fake blog in March for its Rum drinks.

This nonprofit has devised a copyright system that allows creators to be more flexible in allowing others to use their works. This is important in the grassroots blogging world, since it encourages people to publish video, podcasts, and photos online that others can add to their blogs. Online photo service Flickr, co-founded by Caterina Fake, encourages subscribers to share photos using the Creative Commons licenses.

Unlike bloggers who simply put a banner ad on their site, paid bloggers write about a product or issue. This has created controversy about whether bloggers need to disclose that they are being paid and whether the practice damages their credibility. Upstart Marqui paid 20 bloggers $800 a month for three months to promote its Web marketing services, while Republicans and Democrats paid three bloggers during the recent elections.

Blogs devoted to extremely niche topics. When Lockhart Steele started a blog chronicling restaurant openings and new building construction in his rapidly changing neighborhood on New York's Lower East Side, he quickly found an audience -- and advertisers, including the New York Times real estate section.

Online Extra: Stonyfield Farm's Blog Culture
The yogurt-maker's CEO Gary Hirshberg and Chief Blogger Christine Halvorson on how the Web journals connect them to customers Stonyfield Farm, 85%-owned by France's Groupe Danone, is the largest organic yogurt company in the world. Based in Londonderry, N.H., Stonyfield took to blogging in a big way last year -- and even hired its own blogger, Christine Halvorson. A former journalist and almanac writer, she landed the job a year ago in March and now authors five blogs for Stonyfield, including Strong Women Daily News and The Bovine Bugle. Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirshberg and Halvorson recently spoke to BusinessWeek's Lauren Gard about Stoneyfield's move into the blogosphere. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: How did you get started on blogging?
Hirshberg: Before the New Hampshire primary, my wife, Meg, and I got really involved with Howard Dean. His assistant, Kate, had been his blogger. There was a party one time for 150 people, and Howard came. Everyone was excited to see him, but when Kate walked in you could hear the buzz. As a guy interested in building brands and in particular building through unconventional means, I was really intrigued by the kind of immediate intimate connection created by blogging. The more I got into it, the more I realized what they were doing in politics was exactly what I'd been doing in business, by having notes on cups and lids, etc. From 1983, when we were still milking cows, we would write "Let us hear from you" on the back of the yogurt container.

Q: What we you looking for in a blogger?
Hirshberg: We wanted somebody who could speak as you and I are speaking right now. And being a lunatic -- which is what I am -- I had to do five of them. We're really about building loyalty. Coke (KO ) and Pepsi (PEP ) spend millions of dollars to essentially win your attention. In our case, there's no way we could ever compete with a media-based advertising effort -- we would simply lose. So it has been essential for us to instill a word-of-mouth effort. Blogging is the logical next step. I wanted somebody who was interested in humor and nuance.

Q: How long was your search?
Hirshberg: Not very long. We're fans of, and I'm fairly sure that's how we found Chris. We did have four or five people come in. It was not at all a prerequisite that candidates knew what blogging was. Half of the people on my marketing team didn't know what a blog was, they were just following and humoring their lunatic CEO.

Q: What would you tell companies who want to start a blog?
Hirshberg: I'd say two things to BW readers: One, if you're going to go into this as a marketing device, be careful. That's not just what it is, and if you treat it that way consumers will see through it. You have to be willing to let go and allow a really honest expression of genuine things that are going on. Second thing I would say: Don't use it to sell. The minute you start selling with a point of view instead of having a chat, you're going to lose people.

Q: What are you getting from this, really?
Hirshberg: It's impossible to say what we're getting. But if you press an ad agency really hard about their best ads, their best copy, and ask them to prove that that ad resulted in an increase in sales, it's the rare case when you can spell out cause and effect. But what I know in my gut from 22 years of doing this is that we have an emotional connection with customers. That helps explain why we're growing at four times category rate in some markets and three times the category rate nationally.

Q: Can most companies benefit from a blog?
Hirshberg: If it's done properly, I can't imagine any company that wouldn't benefit. IBM (IBM ) [has been] in the news because of their computer division being sold to group of Chinese companies.... This could be a huge brand opportunity if the CEO decided to just start blogging about the experience he or she is going through, what led them to decision to sell, what's good and bad about it. I bet you millions of people would tune in to what's really going on. The problem is, especially in the litigious nature of our culture, we've become so defensive, so on guard in protecting what we're thinking.

Q: Had you heard of blogging before you started this job a year ago?
Halvorson: I knew what blogs were and had read some out of political interest, but had not blogged myself.

Q: You bring up controversial subjects, including religion and politics. Do you worry about offending people?
Halvorson: I don't worry, and I don't think Gary does. We know we're talking to a committed audience that loves us in the first place, because they've already found the Web site. Somehow we're managing to sell 18 million cups of yogurt a month.

Q: Do you follow up on the comments readers leave behind?
Halvorson: We just let them stay out there and let readers respond themselves. If people get a fact wrong, I will try to clarify. But I don't think that has actually happened.

Q: How do you find items to blog about each day?
Halvorson: I have great fun doing that. I spend between four and six hours every day doing something with the blogs -- researching and writing new entries and posting them. There are certain topics -- women's health, children's health, efforts to ban junk food -- that I stay on top of. Google (GOOG ) news alert sends me any news stories on those topics. I also do a little bit of original reporting.

Q: What's your title?
Halvorson: My title is chief blogger -- company gossip. We've been at this since March of last year. People at the company will see me coming and say "Oop! The blogger's here." It's a really good thing, because people will tell me things that work for the blog.

Online Extra: New York's Real Estate Know-It-All
Lockhart Steele's blog is a magnet for anyone looking for the lowdown on the industry's Gotham gossip Brokers might tell you about the two-bedroom co-op boasting panoramic city views from Lower Manhattan's 275 Water St. But for the inside scoop on the developer who may be floating plans to erect an eight-story building next door, potentially obstructing that view -- and wreaking havoc on your property value -- turn to Lockhart Steele. His Web log,, dishes the dirt the brokers don't. "In our special little city," writes Steele in a post on the property, "today's vistas are often tomorrow's brick walls."

Steele, 31, has made a fledgling business out of an obsessive hobby: collecting New York real estate gossip. His blog details Gotham's neighborhood secrets -- from where the city's largest rats are (reportedly in Brooklyn's Fort Greene section) to the future of the Apple Bank building on the Upper West Side (it may be going co-op). The tidbits he gathers often rankle realtors. Jonathan Phillips, for example, who represents 275 Water St. for Halstead, says brokers don't misrepresent properties, and he's quick to point out that Steele never contacted him for comment.

But disregard for traditional media mores is in keeping with bloggers' craft. Steele never claimed to adhere to the standards of old-world journalism. Rather, he bills himself as a scavenger. He culls through 150 other blogs and dozens of readers' tips daily to update his blog, posting photos, rants, and queries. The onus is on readers to shape the conversation by sending him tips, notes, and responses.

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC. Steele's blog has become a must-read for real estate purveyors and enthusiasts alike. Since launched in May, 2004, its traffic has grown to a million page views each month, leaving businesses clamoring to advertise.

"It reaches the right audience," says Daren Hornig, president of residential real estate company DwellingQuest. Hornig reads the site daily and frequently sends Steele tips to post. They're right now negotiating an ad deal. The New York Times's real estate section became's first paid advertiser when it began running a banner on the site Mar. 24.

As part of Steele's professed get-rich-slow scheme, he left his day job as an editor at luxury real estate magazine Cottages & Gardens on Jan. 31 to become a professional blogger. Since is still far from profitable, Steele took a job with the blogosphere's most successful business prototype to date, Gawker Media. Its sites commanded 35 million page views in March.

PHISH HEADS. As its new managing editor, Steele oversees 11 Gawker blogs, including New York media gossip site and the Washington news and gossip blog Gawker Media is not a big-budget operation, but publisher Nick Denton is able to pay a small staff to keep sites up and running, and he hopes to launch six more this year. A big perk to a job with a less-defined schedule, says Steele in his characteristic fast-paced banter: "I get to devote a lot more time to this way."

A sandy-haired guy with large blue eyes and a prominent nose, Steele has nurtured an entrepreneurial spirit since his Brown University days, when in 1995 he collaborated with classmate Andy Bernstein to self-publish a book on the rock group Phish. The pair called their masterpiece The Pharmer's Almanac. Five editions later, they sold it to Penguin.

Upon graduation, Steele headed for New York where he has spent the last decade working in startup media ventures -- from newly launched magazines to dot-com projects since gone bust -- before landing a job with Cottages & Gardens Publications three years ago.

PLAN OF ACTION. Steele has been blogging for five years now. On his personal blog,, readers will find photographs from a recent vacation, a link to the lyrics of a favorite Christmas song, and endless chronicles of the Lower East Side. These latter posts -- restaurant reviews, overheard remarks, development plans -- attracted an early following, giving Steele the idea for

Unlike his personal blog, Steele began with a business plan. Early on, he enlisted Alexis Palmer, a high school friend from Vermont's St. Paul's Academy, to manage the marketing side. With a Harvard MBA, Palmer is a finance person by day. Each night she spends several hours on work: developing a marketing strategy, putting together press kits, and incorporating the site as a small business. Meanwhile, Steele develops the site's editorial voice.

A journalist by training, Steele is emphatic about making the distinction between's content and traditional journalism. "I don't have time to do the fact-checking you do," said Steele of BusinessWeek's traditional journalistic model. Sometimes this leads to problems.

BIG OOPS. Case in point: Last fall, after receiving a tip from another blog, he reported that a Williamsburg man was advertising phony memberships to a bogus gym. had broken a similar authentic scandal earlier in the summer, also from a reader tip. As it turned out, no scam existed this time. The gym owner, a legitimate business operator, sent a furious letter to Steele. "What can you do?" Steele shrugs. He added a correction to the faulty post immediately and put up an apology along with the letter.

This combination of hot insider news and just plain wrong information defines much of the blogosphere. "People trust blog posts more because they sound like e-mails from a friend," says Steele. But he puts the responsibility on readers to read "with your eyes open."

This attitude has troubled some, and Steele has even had an angry broker threaten to sue him over a posting she believed reflected negatively on her. A powerful lawsuit could quickly bring down a shoestring operation like, but Steele has a power card to play as well: "I just told her, look, if you sue me, I'll post about it on my blog." With so many of the broker's customers reading Steele's site, that could pose a real threat to her reputation.

STILL RENTING. While Steele describes as a money-generating hobby, he would like to eventually see a hefty profit. With an equal mix of ambition and bemusement, he says candidly that he hopes to make five figures by the end of the year. With barriers to entry extremely low -- the cost of his domain name, site construction, and logo totaled just $2,000 -- he has only time to lose.

As for Steele's personal real estate endeavors, has yet to score him any personal property perquisites. He continues to rent the same Rivington Street one-bedroom apartment he has occupied since spring, 2001. Says Steele: "I got a good deal." He should know.

By Jessi Hempel in New York

Friday, April 22, 2005

Is Environmentalism Dead?

Blogger's Note: Due to the commercialism of the environmental movement, a question was raised: is Environmentalism is Dead? I hope this article will spark an exchange of ideas among environmentalists and thinkers.

The Death of Environmentalism
Global warming politics in a post-environmental world
By Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, 13 Jan 2005

This essay by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus was released at an October 2004 meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, and it's been ruffling feathers ever since. Get the backstory here.

ForewordBy Peter Teague, Environment Program Director, Nathan Cummings Foundation
As I write this, the fourth in a series of violent hurricanes has just bombarded the Caribbean and Florida. In Florida, more than 30 are dead and thousands are homeless. More than 2,000 Haitians are dead. And ninety percent of the homes in Grenada are destroyed.

As Jon Stewart deadpanned on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, "God, you've made your point. You're all-powerful."

Yet it isn't God we need to be addressing our concerns to -- it's us.

Scientists have long said that stronger and more frequent hurricanes would be a result of global warming. It's an effect of warmer oceans. Yet no prominent national leader -- environmental or otherwise -- has come out publicly to suggest that the recent spate of hurricanes was the result of global warming. That's in part due to the fact that the conventional wisdom among environmentalists is that we mustn't frighten the public but rather must focus its gaze on technical solutions, like hybrid cars and fluorescent light bulbs. In this remarkable report on how environmentalism became a special interest, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus suggest that it's time to reexamine everything we think we know about global warming and environmental politics, from what does and doesn't get counted as "environmental" to the movement's small-bore approach to policymaking.I suggest we also question the conventional wisdom that we can't talk about disasters like the unprecedented hurricanes that devastated Florida and the Caribbean. The insurance industry says that, at $20 billion, the hurricanes will surpass the costliest disaster in US history -- Hurricane Andrew. At what point have we become Pollyanna fearing that we'll be called Chicken Little?I have spent most of my career working in the environmental movement, as have Nordhaus and Shellenberger. They care deeply about environmentalism. It is for that reason that their critique cuts so deeply.The environmental community can claim a great deal of credit for what are significant advances over a relatively short period -- advances won against well-financed campaigns of disinformation and denial. Yet despite all the recent support from the media, from Business Week to National Geographic to the New York Times, we are still a long way from achieving serious action on global warming. It's time to ask: has the U.S. environmental community's work over the past 30 years laid the groundwork for the economic, cultural and political shifts that we know will be necessary to deal with the crisis? Of the hundreds of millions of dollars we have poured into the global warming issue, only a small fraction has gone to engage Americans as the proud moral people they are, willing to sacrifice for the right cause. It would be dishonest to lay all the blame on the media, politicians or the oil industry for the public's disengagement from the issue that, more than any other, will define our future. Those of us who call ourselves environmentalists have a responsibility to examine our role and close the gap between the problems we know and the solutions we propose. So long as the siren call of denial is met with the drone of policy expertise -- and the fantasy of technical fixes is left unchallenged -- the public is not just being misled, it's also being misread. Until we address Americans honestly, and with the respect they deserve, they can be expected to remain largely disengaged from the global transformation we need them to be a part of.To write this article Shellenberger and Nordhaus interviewed more than 25 of the environmental community's top leaders, thinkers and funders. You may disagree with their conclusions. You may dismiss their recommendations. But none of us should deny the need for the broader conversation they propose. This article should prompt those of us in the world of philanthropy to engage with each other and with the groups we fund in an honest evaluation of our present situation.The stakes are too high to go on with business as usual.
AcknowledgementsThis report would not have been possible had many of the country's leading environmental and progressive leaders not been courageous enough to open up their thinking for public scrutiny: Dan Becker, Phil Clapp, Tim Carmichael, Ralph Cavanaugh, Susan Clark, Bernadette Del Chiaro, Shelly Fiddler, Ross Gelbspan, Hal Harvey, David Hawkins, Bracken Hendricks, Roland Hwang, Eric Heitz, Wendy James, Van Jones, Fred Keeley, Lance Lindblom, Elisa Lynch, Jason Mark, Bob Nordhaus, Carl Pope, Josh Reichert, Jeremy Rifkin, Adam Werbach, Greg Wetstone, V. John White, and Carl Zichella. We are especially grateful to George Lakoff for teaching us how to identify category mistakes and to Peter Teague for continually challenging us to question our most basic assumptions
IntroductionTo not think of dying is to not think of living.-- Jann ArdenThose of us who are children of the environmental movement must never forget that we are standing on the shoulders of all those who came before us. The clean water we drink, the clean air we breathe, and the protected wilderness we treasure are all, in no small part, thanks to them. The two of us have worked for most of the country's leading environmental organizations as staff or consultants. We hold a sincere and abiding respect for our parents and elders in the environmental community. They have worked hard and accomplished a great deal. For that we are deeply grateful.At the same time, we believe that the best way to honor their achievements is to acknowledge that modern environmentalism is no longer capable of dealing with the world's most serious ecological crisis. Over the last 15 years environmental foundations and organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into combating global warming.We have strikingly little to show for it. From the battles over higher fuel efficiency for cars and trucks to the attempts to reduce carbon emissions through international treaties, environmental groups repeatedly have tried and failed to win national legislation that would reduce the threat of global warming. As a result, people in the environmental movement today find themselves politically less powerful than we were one and a half decades ago. Yet in lengthy conversations, the vast majority of leaders from the largest environmental organizations and foundations in the country insisted to us that we are on the right track. Nearly all of the more than two-dozen environmentalists we interviewed underscored that climate change demands that we remake the global economy in ways that will transform the lives of six billion people. All recognize that it's an undertaking of monumental size and complexity. And all acknowledged that we must reduce emissions by up to 70 percent as soon as possible. But in their public campaigns, not one of America's environmental leaders is articulating a vision of the future commensurate with the magnitude of the crisis. Instead they are promoting technical policy fixes like pollution controls and higher vehicle mileage standards -- proposals that provide neither the popular inspiration nor the political alliances the community needs to deal with the problem.By failing to question their most basic assumptions about the problem and the solution, environmental leaders are like generals fighting the last war -- in particular the war they fought and won for basic environmental protections more than 30 years ago. It was then that the community's political strategy became defined around using science to define the problem as "environmental" and crafting technical policy proposals as solutions. The greatest achievements to reduce global warming are today happening in Europe. Britain has agreed to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent over 50 years, Holland by 80 percent in 40 years, and Germany by 50 percent in 50 years. Russia may soon ratify Kyoto. And even China -- which is seen fearfully for the amount of dirty coal it intends to burn -- recently established fuel economy standards for its cars and trucks that are much tougher than ours in the US. Environmentalists are learning all the wrong lessons from Europe. We closely scrutinize the policies without giving much thought to the politics that made the policies possible. Our thesis is this: the environmental community's narrow definition of its self-interest leads to a kind of policy literalism that undermines its power. When you look at the long string of global warming defeats under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, it is hard not to conclude that the environmental movement's approach to problems and policies hasn't worked particularly well. And yet there is nothing about the behavior of environmental groups, and nothing in our interviews with environmental leaders, that indicates that we as a community are ready to think differently about our work. What the environmental movement needs more than anything else right now is to take a collective step back to rethink everything. We will never be able to turn things around as long as we understand our failures as essentially tactical, and make proposals that are essentially technical. In Part II we make the case for what could happen if progressives created new institutions and proposals around a big vision and a core set of values. Much of this section is aimed at showing how a more powerful movement depends on letting go of old identities, categories and assumptions, so that we can be truly open to embracing a better model.We resisted the exhortations from early reviewers of this report to say more about what we think must now be done because we believe that the most important next steps will emerge from teams, not individuals. Over the coming months we will be meeting with existing and emerging teams of practitioners and funders to develop a common vision and strategy for moving forward. One tool we have to offer to that process is the research we are doing as part of our Strategic Values Project, which is adapting corporate marketing research for use by the progressive community. This project draws on a 600 question, 2,500-person survey done in the U.S. and Canada every four years since 1992. In contrast to conventional opinion research, this research identifies the core values and beliefs that inform how individuals develop a range of opinions on everything from the economy to abortion to what's the best SUV on the market. This research both shows a clear conservative shift in America's values since 1992 and illuminates many positive openings for progressives and environmentalists. We believe that this new values science will prove to be invaluable in creating a road map to guide the development of a set of proposals that simultaneously energizes our base, wins over new allies, divides our opponents, achieves policy victories and makes America's values environment more progressive. Readers of this report who are interested in learning more about the Strategic Values Project -- and want to engage in a dialogue about the future of environmentalism and progressive politics -- should feel welcome to contact us.
Environmentalism as a Special InterestDeath is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.-- Norman CousinsThose of us who were children during the birth of the modern environmental movement have no idea what it feels like to really win big. Our parents and elders experienced something during the 1960s and 70s that today seems like a dream: the passage of a series of powerful environmental laws too numerous to list, from the Endangered Species Act to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to the National Environmental Policy Act. Experiencing such epic victories had a searing impact on the minds of the movement's founders. It established a way of thinking about the environment and politics that has lasted until today. It was also then, at the height of the movement's success, that the seeds of failure were planted. The environmental community's success created a strong confidence -- and in some cases bald arrogance -- that the environmental protection frame was enough to succeed at a policy level. The environmental community's belief that their power derives from defining themselves as defenders of "the environment" has prevented us from winning major legislation on global warming at the national level. We believe that the environmental movement's foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its very institutions are outmoded. Today environmentalism is just another special interest. Evidence for this can be found in its concepts, its proposals, and its reasoning. What stands out is how arbitrary environmental leaders are about what gets counted and what doesn't as "environmental." Most of the movement's leading thinkers, funders and advocates do not question their most basic assumptions about who we are, what we stand for, and what it is that we should be doing. Environmentalism is today more about protecting a supposed "thing" -- "the environment" -- than advancing the worldview articulated by Sierra Club founder John Muir, who nearly a century ago observed, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."Thinking of the environment as a "thing" has had enormous implications for how environmentalists conduct their politics. The three-part strategic framework for environmental policy-making hasn't changed in 40 years: first, define a problem (e.g. global warming) as "environmental." Second, craft a technical remedy (e.g., cap-and-trade). Third, sell the technical proposal to legislators through a variety of tactics, such as lobbying, third-party allies, research reports, advertising, and public relations. When we asked environmental leaders how we could accelerate our efforts against global warming, most pointed to this or that tactic -- more analysis, more grassroots organizing, more PR. Few things epitomize the environmental community's tactical orientation to politics more than its search for better words and imagery to "reframe" global warming. Lately the advice has included: a) don't call it "climate change" because Americans like change; b) don't call it "global warming" because the word "warming" sounds nice; c) refer to global warming as a "heat trapping blanket" so people can understand it; d) focus attention on technological solutions -- like fluorescent light bulbs and hybrid cars. What each of these recommendations has in common is the shared assumption that a) the problem should be framed as "environmental" and b) our legislative proposals should be technical.1Even the question of alliances, which goes to the core of political strategy, is treated within environmental circles as a tactical question -- an opportunity to get this or that constituency -- religious leaders! business leaders! celebrities! youth! Latinos! -- to take up the fight against global warming. The implication is that if only X group were involved in the global warming fight then things would really start to happen. The arrogance here is that environmentalists ask not what we can do for non-environmental constituencies but what non-environmental constituencies can do for environmentalists. As a result, while public support for action on global warming is wide it is also frighteningly shallow. The environmental movement's incuriosity about the interests of potential allies depends on it never challenging the most basic assumptions about what does and doesn't get counted as "environmental." Because we define environmental problems so narrowly, environmental leaders come up with equally narrow solutions. In the face of perhaps the greatest calamity in modern history, environmental leaders are sanguine that selling technical solutions like florescent light bulbs, more efficient appliances, and hybrid cars will be sufficient to muster the necessary political strength to overcome the alliance of neoconservative ideologues and industry interests in Washington, D.C.The entire landscape in which politics plays out has changed radically in the last 30 years, yet the environmental movement acts as though proposals based on "sound science" will be sufficient to overcome ideological and industry opposition. Environmentalists are in a culture war whether we like it or not. It's a war over our core values as Americans and over our vision for the future, and it won't be won by appealing to the rational consideration of our collective self-interest. We have become convinced that modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live. Those of us who pay so much attention to nature's cycles know better than to fear death, which is inseparable from life. In the words of the Tao Ti Ching, "If you aren't afraid of dying there is nothing you can't achieve."
Environmental Group ThinkIf we wish our civilization to survive we must break with the habit of deference to great men.-- Karl PopperOne of the reasons environmental leaders can whistle past the graveyard of global warming politics is that the membership rolls and the income of the big environmental organizations have grown enormously over the past 30 years -- especially since the election of George W. Bush in 2000.The institutions that define what environmentalism means boast large professional staffs and receive tens of millions of dollars every year from foundations and individuals. Given these rewards, it's no surprise that most environmental leaders neither craft nor support proposals that could be tagged "non-environmental." Doing otherwise would do more than threaten their status; it would undermine their brand. Environmentalists are particularly upbeat about the direction of public opinion thanks in large part to the polling they conduct that shows wide support for their proposals. Yet America is a vastly more right-wing country than it was three decades ago. The domination of American politics by the far-right is a central obstacle to achieving action on global warming. Yet almost none of the environmentalists we interviewed thought to mention it.Part of what's behind America's political turn to the right is the skill with which conservative think tanks, intellectuals and political leaders have crafted proposals that build their power through setting the terms of the debate. Their work has paid off. According to a survey of 1,500 Americans by the market research firm Environics, the number of Americans who agree with the statement, "To preserve people's jobs in this country, we must accept higher levels of pollution in the future," increased from 17 percent in 1996 to 26 percent in 2000. The number of Americans who agreed that, "Most of the people actively involved in environmental groups are extremists, not reasonable people," leapt from 32 percent in 1996 to 41 percent in 2000.The truth is that for the vast majority of Americans, the environment never makes it into their top ten list of things to worry about. Protecting the environment is indeed supported by a large majority -- it's just not supported very strongly. Once you understand this, it's much easier to understand why it's been so easy for anti-environmental interests to gut 30 years of environmental protections. The conventional criticism of the environmental movement articulated by outsiders and many funders is that it is too divided to get the job done. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan argues in his new book Boiling Point, "Despite occasional spasms of cooperation, the major environmental groups have been unwilling to join together around a unified climate agenda, pool resources, and mobilize a united campaign on the climate."Yet what was striking to us in our research was the high degree of consensus among environmental leaders about what the problems and solutions are. We came away from our interviews less concerned about internal divisions than the lack of feedback mechanisms.Engineers use a technical term to describe systems without feedback mechanisms: "stupid." As individuals, environmental leaders are anything but stupid. Many hold multiple advanced degrees in science, engineering, and law from the best schools in the country. But as a community, environmentalists suffer from a bad case of group think, starting with shared assumptions about what we mean by "the environment" -- a category that reinforces the notions that a) the environment is a separate "thing" and b) human beings are separate from and superior to the "natural world." The concepts of "nature" and "environment" have been thoroughly deconstructed. Yet they retain their mythic and debilitating power within the environmental movement and the public at large. If one understands the notion of the "environment" to include humans, then the way the environmental community designates certain problems as environmental and others as not is completely arbitrary. Why, for instance, is a human-made phenomenon like global warming -- which may kill hundreds of millions of human beings over the next century -- considered "environmental"? Why are poverty and war not considered environmental problems while global warming is? What are the implications of framing global warming as an environmental problem -- and handing off the responsibility for dealing with it to "environmentalists"?Some believe that this framing is a political, and not just conceptual, problem. "When we use the term 'environment' it makes it seem as if the problem is 'out there' and we need to 'fix it,'" said Susan Clark, Executive Director of the Columbia Foundation, who believes the Environmental Grantmakers Association should change its name. "The problem is not external to us; it's us. It's a human problem having to do with how we organize our society. This old way of thinking isn't anyone's fault, but it is all of our responsibility to change."Not everyone agrees. "We need to remember that we're the environmental movement and that our job is to protect the environment," said the Sierra Club's Global Warming Director, Dan Becker. "If we stray from that, we risk losing our focus, and there's no one else to protect the environment if we don't do it. We're not a union or the Labor Department. Our job is to protect the environment, not to create an industrial policy for the United States. That doesn't mean we don't care about protecting workers."Most environmentalists don't think of "the environment" as a mental category at all -- they think of it as a real "thing" to be protected and defended. They think of themselves, literally, as representatives and defenders of this thing. Environmentalists do their work as though these are literal rather than figurative truths. They tend to see language in general as representative rather than constitutive of reality. This is typical of liberals who are, at their core, children of the enlightenment who believe that they arrived at their identity and politics through a rational and considered process. They expect others in politics should do the same and are constantly surprised and disappointed when they don't.The effect of this orientation is a certain literal-sclerosis2 -- the belief that social change happens only when people speak a literal "truth to power." Literal-sclerosis can be seen in the assumption that to win action on global warming one must talk about global warming instead of, say, the economy, industrial policy, or health care. "If you want people to act on global warming" stressed Becker, "you need to convince them that action is needed on global warming and not on some ulterior goal."
What We Worry About When We Worry About Global WarmingCalculative thinking computes ... it races from one prospect to the next. It never stops, never collects itself. It is not meditative thinking, not thinking which contemplates the meaning that reigns in everything there is ... Meditative thinking demands of us that we engage ourselves with what, at first sight, does not go together.-- Martin Heidegger, Memorial AddressWhat do we worry about when we worry about global warming? Is it the refugee crisis that will be caused when Caribbean nations are flooded? If so, shouldn't our focus be on building bigger sea walls and disaster preparedness? Is it the food shortages that will result from reduced agricultural production? If so, shouldn't our focus be on increasing food production? Is it the potential collapse of the Gulf Stream, which could freeze upper North America and northern Europe and trigger, as a recent Pentagon scenario suggests, world war? Most environmental leaders would scoff at such framings of the problem and retort, "Disaster preparedness is not an environmental problem." It is a hallmark of environmental rationality to believe that we environmentalists search for "root causes" not "symptoms." What, then, is the cause of global warming? For most within the environmental community, the answer is easy: too much carbon in the atmosphere. Framed this way, the solution is logical: we need to pass legislation that reduces carbon emissions. But what are the obstacles to removing carbon from the atmosphere?Consider what would happen if we identified the obstacles as:
The radical right's control of all three branches of the US government.
Trade policies that undermine environmental protections.
Our failure to articulate an inspiring and positive vision.
The influence of money in American politics.
Our inability to craft legislative proposals that shape the debate around core American values.
Old assumptions about what the problem is and what it isn't. The point here is not just that global warming has many causes but also that the solutions we dream up depend on how we structure the problem. The environmental movement's failure to craft inspiring and powerful proposals to deal with global warming is directly related to the movement's reductive logic about the supposedly root causes (e.g., "too much carbon in the atmosphere") of any given environmental problem. The problem is that once you identify something as the root cause, you have little reason to look for even deeper causes or connections with other root causes. NRDC attorney David Hawkins, who has worked on environmental policy for three decades, defines global warming as essentially a "pollution" problem like acid rain, which was addressed by the 1990 Clean Air Act amendment. The acid rain bill set a national cap on the total amount of acid rain pollution allowed by law and allowed companies to buy pollution credits from other companies that had successfully reduced their emissions beyond the cap. This "cap-and-trade" policy worked well for acid rain, Hawkins reasons, so it should work for global warming, too. The McCain-Lieberman "Climate Stewardship Act" is based on a similar mechanism to cap carbon emissions and allow companies to trade pollution rights. Not everyone agrees that the acid rain victory offers the right mental model. "This is not a problem that will be solved like acid rain," said Phil Clapp, who founded National Environmental Trust a decade ago with foundations that recognized the need for more effective public campaigns by environmentalists."Acid rain dealt with a specific number of facilities in one industry that was already regulated," Clapp argued. "It took just 8 years, from 1982 to 1990, to pass. Global warming is not an issue that will be resolved by the passage of one statute. This is nothing short of the beginning of an effort to transform the world energy economy, vastly improving efficiency and diversifying it away from its virtually exclusive reliance on fossil fuels. The campaign to get carbon emissions capped and then reduced is literally a 50-year non-stop campaign. This is not one that everybody will be able to declare victory, shut up shop, and go home."That lesson was driven home to Clapp, Hawkins, and other leaders during the 1990s when the big environmental groups and funders put all of their global warming eggs in the Kyoto basket. The problem was that they had no well-designed political strategy to get the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty, which would have reduced greenhouse gas reductions to under 1990 levels. The environmental community not only failed to get the Senate to ratify Kyoto, industry strategists -- in a deft act of legislative judo -- crafted an anti-Kyoto Senate resolution that passed 95 -- 0. The size of this defeat can't be overstated. In exiting the Clinton years with no law to reduce carbon emissions -- even by a miniscule amount -- the environmental community has no more power or influence than it had when Kyoto was negotiated. We asked environmental leaders: what went wrong?"Our advocacy in the 1990s was inadequate in the sense that the scale of our objectives in defining victory was not calibrated to the global warming need," answered Hawkins. "Instead it was defined by whatever was possible. We criticized Clinton's proposal for a voluntary program to implement the Rio convention agreement [that preceded Kyoto] but we didn't keep up a public campaign. We redirected our attention to the international arena and spent all of our efforts trying to upgrade President Bush Sr.'s Rio convention commitments rather than trying to turn the existing commitments into law. We should have done both."Responding to the complaint that, in going 10 years without any action on global warming the environmental movement is in a worse place than if it had negotiated an initial agreement under Clinton, Clapp said, "In retrospect, for political positioning we probably would have been better off if, under the Kyoto protocol, we had accepted 1990 levels by 2012 since that was what Bush, Sr. agreed to in Rio. I don't exempt myself from that mistake."After the Kyoto Senate defeat, Clapp and others focused their wrath on Vice President Al Gore, who was one of the country's strongest and most eloquent environmentalists. But Gore had witnessed Kyoto's 95 -- 0 assassination in the Senate and feared that the tag "Ozone Man" -- pinned on him for his successful advocacy of the Montreal Protocol's ban on ozone-destroying CFCs -- would hurt his 2000 presidential campaign. The environmental hit on Al Gore culminated in an April 26, 1999 Time magazine article titled, "Is Al Gore a Hero Or a Traitor?" In it the Time reporter describes a meeting where environmental leaders insisted that Gore do more to phase out dirty old coal power plants. Gore shot back, "Losing on impractical proposals that are completely out of tune with what is achievable does not necessarily advance your cause at all." The public campaign against Gore generated headlines but inspired neither greater risk-taking by politicians nor emboldened the Vice President. Instead, the author of Earth in the Balance spent much of the 2000 race downplaying his green credentials in the false hope that in doing so he would win over undecided voters. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 1990s is that, in the end, the environmental community had still not come up with an inspiring vision, much less a legislative proposal, that a majority of Americans could get excited about.
Everybody Loses on Fuel EfficiencyGreat doubt: great awakening.Little doubt: little awakening.No doubt: no awakening.-- Zen koanBy the end of the 1990s, environmentalists hadn't just failed to win a legislative agreement on carbon, they had also let a deal on higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards slip through their fingers. Since the 1970s environmentalists have defined the problem of oil dependency as a consequence of inadequate fuel efficiency standards. Their strategy has rested on trying to overpower industry and labor unions on environmental and national security grounds. The result has been massive failure: over the last 20 years, as automobile technologies have improved exponentially, overall mileage rates have gone down, not up. Few beat around the bush when discussing this fact. "If the question is whether we've done anything to address the problem since 1985, the answer is no," said Bob Nordhaus, the Washington, D.C. attorney who served as General Counsel for the Department of Energy under President Clinton and who helped draft the Corporate Average Fuel Economy or "CAFE" (pronounced "café") legislation and the Clean Air Act. (Nordhaus is also the father of one of the authors of this report.)The first CAFE amendment in 1975 grabbed the low-hanging fruit of efficiency to set into place standards that experts say were much easier for industry to meet than the standards environmentalists are demanding now. The UAW and automakers agreed to the 1975 CAFE amendment out of a clearly defined self-interest: to slow the advance of Japanese imports. "CAFE [in 1975] was backed by the UAW and [Michigan Democrat Rep. John] Dingell," said Shelly Fiddler, who was Chief of Staff for former Rep. Phil Sharp who authored the CAFE amendment before becoming Chief of Staff for the Clinton White House's Council on Environmental Quality. "It got done by Ford and a bunch of renegade staffers in Congress, not by environmentalists. The environmental community didn't originate CAFE and they had serious reservations about it." Thanks to action by US automakers and inaction by US environmental groups, CAFE's efficiency gains stalled in the mid-1980s. It's not clear who did more damage to CAFE, the auto industry, the UAW or the environmental movement. Having gathered 59 votes -- one short of what's needed to stop a filibuster -- Senator Richard Bryan nearly passed legislation to raise fuel economy standards in 1990. But one year later, when Bryan had a very good shot at getting the 60 votes he needed, the environmental movement cut a deal with the automakers. In exchange for the auto industry's opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, environmentalists agreed to drop its support for the Bryan bill. "[I]t was scuppered by the environmentalists, of all people, " New York Times auto industry reporter Keith Bradsher notes bitterly.3 Tragically, had Bryan and environmentalists succeeded in 1991, they would have dramatically slowed the rise of SUVs in the coming decade and reduced the pressure on the Refuge -- a patch of wilderness that the Republicans again used to smack around environmentalists under President George W. Bush. The environmental community's failure in 1991 was compounded by the fact that the Bryan bill "helped scare Japanese automakers into producing larger models," a shift that ultimately diminished the power of both the UAW and environmentalists. "Where was the environmental movement?" asks Bradsher in his marvelous history of the SUV, High and Mighty. "[A]s a slow and steady transformation began taking place on the American road, the environmental movement stayed silent on SUVs all the way into the mid-1990s, and did not campaign in earnest for changes to SUV regulations until 1999."Finally, in 2002, Senator John Kerry and Senator John McCain popped up with another attempt to raise CAFE standards. Once again environmentalists failed to negotiate a deal with UAW. As a result, the bill lost by a far larger margin than it had in 1990. The Senate voted 62-38 to kill it. From the perspective of even the youngest and greenest Hill staffer, the political power of environmental groups appeared at an all-time low.Environmental spokespersons tried to position their 2002 loss as a victory, arguing that it provided them with momentum going forward. But privately almost every environmental leader we interviewed told us that CAFE -- in its 2002 incarnation -- is dead. Given CAFE's initial 10 years of success, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, it made sense that environmentalists saw CAFE as a good technical tool for reducing our dependence on oil and cutting carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the best technical solutions don't always make for the best politics. Senators don't vote according to the technical specifications of a proposal. They make decisions based on a variety of factors, especially how the proposal and its opposition are framed. And no amount of public relations can help a badly framed proposal.Bradsher argues pointedly that "Environmentalists and their Congressional allies have wasted their time since the days of the Bryan bill by repeatedly bringing overly ambitious legislation to the floors of the House and Senate without first striking compromises with the UAW. The sad truth is that by tilting the playing field in favor of SUVs for a quarter of a century, government regulations have left the economy of the Upper Midwest addicted to the production of dangerous substitutes for cars. Any fuel-economy policy must recognize this huge social and economic problem." In light of this string of legislative disasters one might expect environmental leaders to reevaluate their assumptions and craft a new proposal.4 Instead, over the last two years, the environmental movement has made only the tactical judgment to bring in new allies, everyone from religious leaders to Hollywood celebrities, to reinforce the notion that CAFE is the only way to free America from foreign oil. The conventional wisdom today is that the auto industry and the UAW "won" the CAFE fight. This logic implies that industry executives represent what's best for shareholders, that union executives represent what's best for workers, and that environmentalists represent what's best for the environment. All of these assumptions merit questioning. Today the American auto industry is in a state of gradual collapse. Japanese automakers are eating away at American market share with cleaner, more efficient, and outright better vehicles. And American companies are drawing up plans to move their factories overseas. None of the so-called special interests are representing their members' interests especially well.There is no better example of how environmental categories sabotage environmental politics than CAFE. When it was crafted in 1975, it was done so as a way to save the American auto industry, not to save the environment. That was the right framing then and has been the right framing ever since. Yet the environmental movement, in all of its literal-sclerosis, not only felt the need to brand CAFE as an "environmental" proposal, it failed to find a solution that also worked for industry and labor. By thinking only of their own narrowly defined interests, environmental groups don't concern themselves with the needs of either unions or the industry. As a consequence, we miss major opportunities for alliance building. Consider the fact that the biggest threat to the American auto industry appears to have nothing to do with "the environment." The high cost of health care for its retired employees is a big part of what hurts the competitiveness of American companies. "G.M. covers the health care costs of 1.1 million Americans, or close to half a percent of the total population," wrote the New York Times' Danny Hakim recently.5 "For G.M., which earned $1.2 billion [in profits] last year, annual health spending has risen to $4.8 billion from $3 billion since 1996 ... Today, with global competition and the United States health care system putting the burden largely on employers, retiree medical costs are one reason Toyota's $10.2 billion profit in its most recent fiscal year was more than double the combined profit of the Big Three." Because Japan has national health care, its auto companies aren't stuck with the bill for its retirees. And yet if you were to propose that environmental groups should have a strategy for lowering the costs of health care for the auto industry, perhaps in exchange for higher mileage standards, you'd likely be laughed out of the room, or scolded by your colleagues because, "Health care is not an environmental issue."The health care cost disadvantage for US producers is a threat that won't be overcome with tax incentives for capital investments into new factories, or consumer rebates for hybrids. The problem isn't just that tax credits and rebates won't achieve what we need them to achieve, which is save the American auto industry by helping it build better, more efficient cars. The problem is also that these policies, which the environmental community only agreed to after more than two decades of failure, have been thrown into the old CAFE proposal like so many trimmings for a turkey.Environmentalists -- including presidential candidate John Kerry, whose platform includes the new turkey trimmings -- as well as industry and labor leaders, have yet to rethink their assumptions about the future of the American auto industry in ways that might reframe their proposal. Some environmental "realists" argue that the death of the American auto industry -- and the loss of hundreds of thousands of high-paying union jobs -- isn't necessarily a bad thing for the environment if it means more market share for more efficient Japanese vehicles. Others say saving the American auto industry is central to maintaining the Midwest's middle class."I don't like to bribe everyone into good behavior, but it's not bad to help the unions," said Hal Harvey. "We need jobs in this country. Union members are swing voters in a lot of states. And a livable wage is ethically important." Like Harvey, most environmental leaders are progressives who support the union movement on principle. And though many have met with labor leaders about how to resolve the CAFE quagmire, the environmental movement is not articulating how building a stronger American auto industry and union movement is central to winning action on global warming. Rather, like everything else that's not seen as explicitly "environmental," the future of the union movement is treated as a tactical, not a strategic, consideration.California's recent decision to require reductions in vehicle greenhouse gas emissions over the next 11 years was widely reported as a victory for environmental efforts against global warming. In fact, coming after over two decades of failure to reverse the gradual decline of fuel efficiency, the decision is a sign of our weakness, not strength. Automakers are rightly confident that they will be able to defeat the California law in court. If they can't, there is a real danger that the industry will persuade Congress to repeal California's special right to regulate pollution under the Clean Air Act. If that happens, California will lose its power to limit vehicle pollution altogether. Today's fleet-wide fuel efficiency average is the same as it was in 1980, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. This quarter century of failure is not due to one or two tactical errors (though there were plenty of those, as we describe above). Rather, the roots of the environmental community's failure can be found in the way it designates certain problems as environmental and others as not. Automakers and the UAW are, of course, just as responsible as environmentalists for failing to form a strategic alliance. The lose-lose-lose that is the current situation on automobiles is the logical result of defining labor, environmental and industry self-interests so narrowly. Before his death, David Brower tried to think more creatively about win-win solutions. He spoke often about the need for the environmental community to invest more energy in changing the tax code, a point reporter Keith Bradsher emphasized in High and Mighty. "Environmentalists have a history of not taking notice of tax legislation, and paid no attention whatsoever to the depreciation and luxury tax provisions for large light trucks. More egregiously, environmental groups ignored SUVs in the 1990 battle over the Bryan bill, and even disregarded the air-pollution loopholes for light trucks in the 1990 clean air legislation."6Some in the environmental community are trying to learn from the failures of the last 25 years and think differently about the problem. Jason Mark of the Union of Concerned Scientists told us that he has begun the search for more carrots to the Pavley stick. "We need to negotiate from a position of strength. Now is the time for us to propose incentive policies that make sense. We've been working on tax credits for hybrids. Now we need to come up with tax credits for R&D into reduced emissions, and something to ease the industry's pension and health burdens. No one has yet put a big pension deal on the table for them. None of this has yet been explored."In the end, all sides are responsible for failing to craft a deal that trades greater efficiency for targeted federal tax credits into R&D. One consequence of Japan's public policies that reward R&D with tax credits, suggests Mark, is that Japanese automakers are run by innovation-driven engineers whereas American automakers are run by narrowly focused accountants. For Pavley to inspire a win-win-win deal by industry, environmentalists and the UAW, all three interests will need to start thinking outside of their conceptual boxes.
Winning While Losing vs. Losing While LosingFailure is an opportunity.-- Tao Ti ChingIn politics, a legislative defeat can either be a win or a loss. A legislative loss can be considered a win if it has increased a movement's power, energy, and influence over the long-term. Witness the religious right's successful effort to ban partial-birth abortions. The proposal succeeded only after several failed attempts. Because it was anchored to core values, not technical policy specs, the initial defeats of the ban on partial-birth abortions paved the way for eventual victory.The serial losses on Rio, Kyoto, CAFE, and McCain-Lieberman were not framed in ways that increase the environmental community's power through each successive defeat. That's because, when those proposals were crafted, environmentalists weren't thinking about what we get out of each defeat. We were only thinking about what we get out of them if they succeed. It's this mentality that must be overthrown if we are to craft proposals that generate the power we need to succeed at a legislative level.The thing everyone from the Pew Charitable Trusts to Rainforest Action Network agrees on is the size of the problem. "What we are trying to achieve is a fundamental shift in the way this country (and the world) produces and consumes energy," said Pew's Environment Director Josh Reichert. "I am confident that we will get there, primarily because I believe that we have no choice. But how long it will take, and how much will be sacrificed because of the delay, remains to be seen."Greg Wetstone of the NRDC concurred. "There's an awareness in the scientific community and the public that this is the most important and difficult environmental challenge we've ever faced. We're not, unfortunately, seeing progress yet in Congress or the Bush Administration."After the Senate voted against McCain-Lieberman 55 to 43 in October 2003, Kevin Curtis of the National Environmental Trust spoke for the community when he told Grist Magazine that "It's a start. This may seem to be a defeat now, but in the end it's a victory. A bill that gets at least 40 votes has a fair chance of passing if it's reintroduced."Not everyone agrees that McCain-Lieberman is helping the environmental community. Shelley Fiddler said, "It is completely spurious for anyone to call this loss a victory." Even though Senators McCain and Lieberman have watered down the carbon caps to win more votes, it's not clear that environmentalists can muster the strength to pass the Climate Stewardship Act through the Congress. Reichert predicts that McCain Lieberman will pass the Senate by the end of 2005, but acknowledges that the House will be much harder.The political calculation environmentalists are making now is how subsidies for cleaner coal and carbon sequestration could win over the coal and electric industries, as well as the United Mineworkers. While we believe that the situation in China and other developing countries makes investments into cleaner coal technologies and sequestration an urgent priority, it is a disturbing sign that, once again, environmentalists are putting the technical policy cart before the vision-and-values horse. Investments in cleaner coal should be framed as part of an overall vision for creating jobs in the energy industries of the future, not simply as a technical fix.In some ways McCain-Lieberman offers the worst of all worlds. Not only does it fail to inspire a compelling vision that could change the debate and grow the political power of environmentalists, it also disappoints at the policy level. "Even if McCain-Lieberman were enacted it wouldn't do a hell of a lot of good," said one well-known Washington energy attorney. "It's a minor decrease in carbon. If you look at what's necessary, which is stabilizing emissions, McCain-Lieberman isn't going to make a dent. We need 50 -- 70 percent reductions. Part of the job is to stay the course and keep pushing. But another part of the job is to come up with a more thought-through program."Passing McCain-Lieberman will require more than buying off or out-flanking industry opponents. It will also require beating savvy neocon strategists who have successfully turned the regulation of carbon emissions into the bête noire of the conservative movement.And if the political prospects for action on global warming appear daunting in the U.S., don't look to China for uplift: the 1.2 billion person country, growing at 20 percent a year, intends to quadruple the size of its economy in 30 years and bring 300 gigawatts -- nearly half of what we use each year in the US -- of dirty coal energy on-line. The challenge for American environmentalists is not just to get the US to dramatically overhaul its energy strategy but also to help developing countries like China, India, Russia and South Africa do so as well. That means environmental groups will need to advocate policies like technology transfer, ethical trade agreements, and win-win joint ventures. The carbon threat from China and other developing countries drives home the point that a whole series of major policies not traditionally defined as "environmental," from industrial policy to trade policy, will be needed to deal with global warming. The question that must be put to proposals like McCain-Lieberman is this: will its continuing defeat -- or its eventual passage -- provide us with the momentum we need to introduce and pass a whole series of proposals to reshape the global energy economy? If not, then what will?
Environmentalism as Though Politics Didn't MatterWith public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.-- Abraham LincolnRoss Gelbspan captured the pragmatic sentiment held by most environmentalists when he told us, "I view McCain-Lieberman like Kyoto: ineffectual but hugely important and indispensable for setting up a mechanism to regulate carbon." When we told him that Eric Heitz, executive director of the Energy Foundation, predicted to us that the US will have a "serious federal carbon regime in five years," Gelbspan replied, "It can't wait even a couple of years. The climate is changing too quickly. We have to start faster."In Boiling Point Gelbspan accuses environmental leaders of "being too timid to raise alarms about so nightmarish a climate threat" and for settling for too little. "Take the critical issue of climate stabilization -- the level at which the world agrees to cap the buildup of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere," Gelbspan writes. "The major national environmental groups focusing on climate -- groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the World Wildlife Federation -- have agreed to accept what they see as a politically feasible target for 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide ... [That] may be politically realistic, it would likely be environmentally catastrophic."In our interview, Gelbspan told us that environmentalists' failure to achieve more is "because they operate in Washington and they accept incremental progress. If they can get two more miles on a CAFE standard that would be a huge accomplishment for them. But compared to the need to cut emissions 70 or 80 percent it's nothing. They're scared they'll be marginalized by calling for big cuts. They are taking the expedient route even as we see the scientists sounding the alarms and saying it's too late to avoid the significant disruptions."The alternative Gelbspan advocates is the unfortunately titled "WEMP" proposal -- the World Energy Modernization Plan -- to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent worldwide in three ways: 1) shifting subsidies from polluting industries to clean industries; 2) creating a fund to transfer clean technology to the developing world; and 3) ratcheting up a "Fossil Fuel Efficiency Standard" by five percent per year. It's a program Gelbspan says is strong enough to deal with the global warming crisis while creating millions of good jobs around the world. It might even, he writes, help "create conditions supportive of a real peace process in Israel" (though he acknowledges that the latter is a "highly improbable fantasy").Intrigued by this big vision, we asked him about the political strategy for passing WEMP."It's not a hard one," he answered. "You have to get money out of politics. If you did that you would have no issue. I don't see an answer short of real campaign finance reform. I know that sounds implausible, but the alternative is massive climate change."We asked, "Are you saying we have to get campaign finance reform before we can get action on global warming?" At this Gelbspan backed down. "I don't know what the answer to that is. I really don't."What is so appealing about Boiling Point is Gelbspan's straight-talk when it comes to the size of the crisis: we must cut carbon emissions by 70 percent as soon as possible or it's the end of the world as we know it. In his book Gelbspan positions himself as something of a Paul Revere attempting to wake the legions of sleeping environmentalists. Yet none of the environmental leaders we interviewed expressed any denial about what we're facing. On the contrary, they all believe the situation is urgent and that big steps must be taken -- at least eventually. Their point is that you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. What's frustrating about Boiling Point and so many other visionary environmental books -- from Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, and Amory and Hunter Lovins to Plan B by Lester Brown to The End of Oil by Paul Roberts -- is the way the authors advocate technical policy solutions as though politics didn't matter. Who cares if a carbon tax or a sky trust or a cap-and-trade system is the most simple and elegant policy mechanism to increase demand for clean energy sources if it's a political loser? The environmental movement's technical policy orientation has created a kind of myopia: everyone is looking for short-term policy pay-off. We could find nobody who is crafting political proposals that, through the alternative vision and values they introduce, create the context for electoral and legislative victories down the road. Almost every environmental leader we interviewed is focused on short-term policy work, not long-term strategies. Political proposals that provide a long-term punch by their very nature set up political conflicts and controversy on terms that advance the environmental movement's transformative vision and values. But many within the environmental movement are uncomfortable thinking about their proposals in a transformative political context. When we asked Hal Harvey how he would craft his energy proposals so that the resulting political controversy would build the power of environmentalists to pass legislation, Harvey replied, "I don't know if I want a lot of controversy in these packages. I want astonishment."
Going Beyond Special Interests and Single IssuesTo be empty of a fixed identity allows one to enter fully into the shifting, poignant, beautiful, and tragic contingencies of the world.-- Stephen Batchelor, Verses from the CenterThe marriage between vision, values, and policy has proved elusive for environmentalists. Most environmental leaders, even the most vision-oriented, are struggling to articulate proposals that have coherence. This is a crisis because environmentalism will never be able to muster the strength it needs to deal with the global warming problem as long as it is seen as a "special interest." And it will continue to be seen as a special interest as long as it narrowly identifies the problem as "environmental" and the solutions as technical. In early 2003 we joined with the Carol/Trevelyan Strategy Group, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the Common Assets Defense Fund, and the Institute for America's Future to create a proposal for a "New Apollo Project" aimed at freeing the US from oil and creating millions of good new jobs over 10 years. Our strategy was to create something inspiring. Something that would remind people of the American dream: that we are a can-do people capable of achieving great things when we put our minds to it.Apollo's focus on big investments into clean energy, transportation and efficiency is part of a hopeful and patriotic story that we are all in this economy together. It allows politicians to inject big ideas into contested political spaces, define the debate, attract allies, and legislate. And it uses big solutions to frame the problem -- not the other way around.Until now the Apollo Alliance has focused not on crafting legislative solutions but rather on building a coalition of environmental, labor, business, and community allies who share a common vision for the future and a common set of values. The Apollo vision was endorsed by 17 of the country's leading labor unions and environmental groups ranging from NRDC to Rainforest Action Network.Whether or not you believe that the New Apollo Project is on the mark, it is at the very least a sincere attempt to undermine the assumptions beneath special interest environmentalism. Just two years old, Apollo offers a vision that can set the context for a myriad of national and local Apollo proposals, all of which will aim to treat labor unions, civil rights groups, and businesses not simply as means to an end but as true allies whose interests in economic development can be aligned with strong action on global warming. Van Jones, the up-and-coming civil rights leader and co-founder of the California Apollo Project, likens these four groups to the four wheels on the car needed to make "an ecological U-turn." Van has extended the metaphor elegantly: "We need all four wheels to be turning at the same time and at the same speed. Otherwise the car won't go anywhere." Our point is not that Apollo is the answer to the environmental movement's losing streak on global warming. Rather we are arguing that all proposals aimed at dealing with global warming -- Kyoto, McCain-Lieberman, CAFE, carbon taxes, WEMP, and Apollo -- must be evaluated not only for whether they will get us the environmental protections we need but also whether they will define the debate, divide our opponents and build our political power over time. It is our contention that the strength of any given political proposal turns more on its vision for the future and the values it carries within it than on its technical policy specifications. What's so powerful about Apollo is not its 10-point plan or its detailed set of policies but rather its inclusive and hopeful vision for America's future. "There was a brief period of time when my colleagues thought I was crazy to grab onto Apollo," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, a co-chair of the Apollo Alliance. "They kept looking at Apollo as a policy outcome and I viewed it as a way of reframing the issue. They kept asking, "How do you know [Teamsters President] Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. is going to get the issue?' I answered, 'Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. isn't! I'm not doing policy mark-up here, I'm trying to get the people that work for Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. to do something different.'"Getting labor to do something different is no easier than getting environmentalists to. Its problems are similar to those of the environmental movement: lack of a vision, a coherent set of values, and policy proposals that build its power. There's no guarantee that the environmental movement can fix labor's woes or vice versa. But if we would focus on how our interests are aligned we might craft something more creative together than apart. By signifying a unified concern for people and the climate, Apollo aims to deconstruct the assumptions underneath the categories "labor" and "the environment."Apollo was created differently from proposals like McCain-Lieberman. We started by getting clear about our vision and values and then created a coalition of environmentalists, unions, and civil rights groups before reaching out to Reagan Democrats and other blue-collar constituents who have been financially wrecked by the last 20 years of economic and trade policies. These working families were a key part of the New Deal coalition that governed America through the middle of the last century. Though ostensibly liberal on economic issues, Reagan Democrats have become increasingly suspicious of American government and conservative on social issues, including environmentalism, due in no small part to the success of conservatives in consistently targeting this group with strategic initiatives. And yet more than 80 percent of Reagan Democrats, our polling discovered, support Apollo -- higher rates even than college-educated Democrats.Irrespective of its short-term impact on US energy policy, Apollo will be successful if it elevates the key progressive values noted above among this critical constituency of opportunity. Viewed as part of a larger effort to build a true, values-based progressive majority in the United States, Apollo should be conceived of as one among several initiatives designed to create bridge values for this constituency to move, over time, toward holding consistent and coherent views that look more and more like those of America's progressive and environmental base.Despite Apollo's political strengths, it irked many environmental leaders who believe that if we don't talk about regulation we won't get regulation. Nowhere does policy literalism rear its head more than in arguments against Apollo's focus on investment. That's because instead of emphasizing the need for command-and-control regulations, Apollo stresses the need for greater public-private investments to establish American leadership in the clean energy revolution -- investments like those America made in the railroads, the highways, the electronics industry and the Internet. "We've been positive publicly about Apollo," Hawkins said, "but not positive policy-wise because it doesn't have binding limits, either on CAFE or carbon." Van Jones believes Apollo represents a third wave of environmentalism. "The first wave of environmentalism was framed around conservation and the second around regulation," Jones said. "We believe the third wave will be framed around investment."The New Apollo Project recognizes that we can no longer afford to address the world's problems separately. Most people wake up in the morning trying to reduce what they have to worry about. Environmentalists wake up trying to increase it. We want the public to care about and focus not only on global warming and rainforests but also species extinction, non-native plant invasives, agribusiness, overfishing, mercury, and toxic dumps. Talking at the public about this laundry lists of concerns is what environmentalists refer to as "public education." The assumption here is that the American electorate consists of 100 million policy wonks eager to digest the bleak news we have to deliver.Whereas neocons make proposals using their core values as a strategy for building a political majority, liberals, especially environmentalists, try to win on one issue at a time. We come together only around elections when our candidates run on our issue lists and technical policy solutions. The problem, of course, isn't just that environmentalism has become a special interest. The problem is that all liberal politics have become special interests. And whether or not you agree that Apollo is a step in the right direction, it has, we believed, challenged old ways of thinking about the problem.
Getting Back on the OffensiveFar better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory, nor defeat.-- Theodore Roosevelt, 1899Industry and conservative lobbyists prevent action on global warming proposals by framing their attacks around an issue of far greater salience for the American people: jobs. The industry opposition claims that action on global warming will cost billions of dollars and millions of jobs. They repeat this claim, ad nauseum, through bogus studies, advertisements, lobbying, public relations, and alliance building among businesses and labor unions. The environmental leaders we interviewed tended to reinforce the industry position by responding to it, in typical literal fashion, rather than attack industry for opposing proposals that will create millions of good new jobs. In a written statement, Pew's Josh Reichert said, "Ultimately, the labor movement in this country needs to become positively engaged in efforts to address climate change. They need to recognize that, if done properly, reducing greenhouse gases will not be detrimental to labor. On the contrary, it will spawn industries and create jobs that we don't have now."The unspoken assumptions here are a) the problem, or "root cause," is "greenhouse gases", b) labor must accept the environmental movement's framing of the problem as greenhouse gases, and c) it's the responsibility of labor to get with the program on global warming. The problem is that environmental leaders have persuaded themselves that it's their job to worry about "environmental" problems and that it's the labor movement's job to worry about "labor" problems. If there's overlap, they say, great. But we should never ever forget who we really are."Global warming is an apt example of why environmentalists must break out of their ghetto," said Lance Lindblom, President and CEO of the Nathan Cummings Foundation. "Our opponents use our inability to form effective alliances to drive a wedge through our potential coalition. Some of this is a cultural problem. Environmentalists think, 'You're talking to me about your job -- I'm talking about saving the world!' Developing new energy industries will clearly help working families and increase national security, but there's still no intuition that all of these are consistent concerns."The tendency to put the environment into an airtight container away from the concerns of others is at the heart of the environmental movement's defensiveness on economic issues. Our defensiveness on the economy elevates the frame that action on global warming will kill jobs and raise electricity bills. The notion that environmentalists should answer industry charges instead of attacking those very industries for blocking investment into the good new jobs of the future is yet another symptom of literal-scleroris. Answering charges with the literal "truth" is a bit like responding to the Republican "Swift Boats for Truth" ad campaign with the facts about John Kerry's war record. The way to win is not to defend -- it's to attack.Given the movement's adherence to fixed and arbitrary categories it's not surprising that even its best political allies fall into the same traps. At a Pew Center on Global Climate Change conference last June, Senator John McCain awkwardly and unsuccessfully tried to flip the economic argument on his opponents: "I think the economic impact [of climate change] would be devastating. Our way of life is in danger. This is a serious problem. Relief is not on the way." Senator Lieberman did an even worse job, as one might expect from someone who makes conservative arguments for liberal initiatives: "Confronting global warming need not be wrenching to our economy if we take simple sensible steps now."There is no shortage of examples of environmentalists struggling to explain the supposed costs of taking action on global warming. A June poll conducted for environmental backers of McCain-Lieberman found that 70 percent of Americans support the goals of the Climate Stewardship Act "despite the likelihood it may raise energy costs by more than $15 a month per household." In the online magazine Grist, Thad Miller approvingly cites a study done by MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change that "predicts household energy expenditures under the bill would increase by a modest $89." More good news from the environmental community: not only won't we kill as many jobs as you think, we only want to raise your energy bill a little bit! For nearly every environmental leader we spoke to, the job creation benefits of things like retrofitting every home and building in America were, at best, afterthoughts. A few, however, like Eric Heitz of the Energy Foundation, believe that the economic development argument should be front and center. "I think the Apollo angle is the best angle," he said. "There are real economic benefits here. The environmental community is focused too much on the problem. It's a shift we've only started to make, so it's not unexpected that it's happening slowly. The pressure becomes overwhelming as Canada and Japan begin to move on us."When asked what excites him the most about the movement against global warming, Hal Harvey, too, pointed to economic development. "Let's go for the massive expansion of wind in the Midwest -- make it part of the farm bill and not the energy bill. Let's highlight the jobs and farmers behind it," he said.Talking about the millions of jobs that will be created by accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy offers more than a good defense against industry attacks: it's a frame that moves the environmental movement away from apocalyptic global warming scenarios that tend to create feelings of helplessness and isolation among would-be supporters. Once environmentalists can offer a compelling vision for the future we will be in a much better position to stop being Pollyanna about the state of their politics. And once we have an inspiring vision we will have the confidence we need to "take a cold, hard look at the facts," in the words of Good to Great author Jim Collins. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream speech" is famous because it put forward an inspiring, positive vision that carried a critique of the current moment within it. Imagine how history would have turned out had King given an "I have a nightmare" speech instead.In the absence of a bold vision and a reconsideration of the problem, environmental leaders are effectively giving the "I have a nightmare" speech, not just in our press interviews but also in the way that we make our proposals. The world's most effective leaders are not issue-identified but rather vision and value-identified. These leaders distinguish themselves by inspiring hope against fear, love against injustice, and power against powerlessness. A positive, transformative vision doesn't just inspire, it also creates the cognitive space for assumptions to be challenged and new ideas to surface. And it helps everyone to get out of their "issue" boxes. Toward the end of his life, King began reaching out to labor unions and thinking about economic development. He didn't say, "That's not my issue," as today's liberal leaders do. He didn't see his work as limited to ending Jim Crow.Environmentalists have a great deal to learn from conservatives. Today, when right-wing strategist Grover Norquist proposes a big agenda like sweeping tax cuts, his allies understand that his unspoken agenda is to cripple the federal government's ability to pay for services like health care, public education, and the enforcement of labor and environmental laws. Special interests seeking cuts to worker safety programs are, for example, more likely to join alliances around Norquist's vision of less taxes than an alliance built around "somebody else's issue," like cutting investments into clean energy. Because today's conservatives understand the strategic importance of tax cuts for killing social programs, never do they say, "That's not my issue."
A Path for the CrossingOur company has, indeed, stumbled onto some of its new products. But never forget that you can only stumble if you're moving.-- Richard Carlton, former CEO, 3M CorporationWhile it's obvious that conservatives control all three branches of government and the terms of most political debates, it's not obvious why. This is because environmentalists and other liberals have convinced themselves that, in politics, "the issues" matter and that the public is with us on categories such as "the environment" and "jobs" and "heath care." What explains how we can simultaneously be "winning on the issues" and losing so badly politically?One explanation is that environmentalists simply can't build coalitions well because of turf battles. Another says that environmentalists just don't have enough money to effectively do battle with polluting industries. Another says that we environmentalists are just too nice. These statements all may be true. What's not clear is whether they are truly causes or rather symptoms of something far deeper.Issues only matter to the extent that they are positioned in ways linking them to proposals carrying within them a set of core beliefs, principles, or values. The role of issues and proposals is to activate and sometimes change those deeply held values. And the job of global warming strategists should be to determine which values we need to activate to bring various constituencies into a political majority.For social scientists, values are those core beliefs and principles that motivate behavior -- from who you vote for to which movie to see. These values determine political positions and political identities (e.g., environmentalist or not, Republican or Democrat, conservative or progressive).The scientists who study values understand that some values are traditional, like so-called "family values," others are modern, like "liberal" enlightenment values, and others (like consumer values) fit into neither category. These values inform how individuals develop a range of opinions, on everything from global warming to the war in Iraq to what kind of SUV to buy. Conservative foundations and think tanks have spent 40 years getting clear about what they want (their vision) and what they stand for (their values). The values of smaller government, fewer taxes, a large military, traditional families, and more power for big business are only today, after 40 years of being stitched together by conservative intellectuals and strategists, coherent enough to be listed in a "contract with America." After they got clearer about their vision and values, conservatives started crafting proposals that would activate conservative values among their base and swing voters. Once in power, conservatives govern on all of their issues -- no matter whether their solutions have majority support. Liberals tend to approach politics with an eye toward winning one issue campaign at a time -- a Sisyphean task that has contributed to today's neoconservative hegemony.Environmental groups have spent the last 40 years defining themselves against conservative values like cost-benefit accounting, smaller government, fewer regulations, and free trade, without ever articulating a coherent morality we can call our own. Most of the intellectuals who staff environmental groups are so repelled by the right's values that we have assiduously avoided examining our own in a serious way. Environmentalists and other liberals tend to see values as a distraction from "the real issues" -- environmental problems like global warming. If environmentalists hope to become more than a special interest we must start framing our proposals around core American values and start seeing our own values as central to what motivates and guides our politics. Doing so is crucial if we are to build the political momentum -- a sustaining movement -- to pass and implement the legislation that will achieve action on global warming and other issues."Most foundations accept these categorical assumptions just as our grantees do," said Peter Teague, the Environment Director of the Nathan Cummings Foundation. "We separate out the category of 'the environment.' We assign narrowly focused issue experts to make grants. We set them up to compete rather than cooperate. And we evaluate our progress according to our ability to promote technical policy fixes. The bottom line is that if we want different results we have to think and organize ourselves in a dramatically different way."Environmental funders can take a page from the world of venture capitalists who routinely make and write-off failed investments, all while promoting an environment of vigorous debate over what worked and what didn't. Just as the craziest ideas in a brainstorming session often come just before a breakthrough, some of the business world's most spectacular failures (e.g. Apple's Newton handheld) come just before it's most stunning successes (e.g., the Palm Pilot). It is this mentality that inspired one prominent business strategist to suggest that the motto for CEOs should be, "Reward success and failure equally. Punish only inaction."7Pew's Josh Reichert deserves credit for learning from the venture capitalist model. Pew commissions serious research, pays for top legal, public relations and advertising talent, and funds campaigns that achieve results. To no small extent, Reichert shares the credit for the public vigor of grantee Phil Clapp and the National Environmental Trust. But bringing in top talent is pointless if we are unwilling to critically examine the assumptions underneath our strategies.Kevin Phillips recently argued in Harper's Magazine that the decline of liberalism began because "liberal intellectuals and policy makers had become too sure of themselves, so lazy and complacent that they failed to pay attention to people who didn't share their opinions."Environmentalists find themselves in the same place today. We are so certain about what the problem is, and so committed to their legislative solutions, that we behave as though all we need is to tell the literal truth in order to pass our policies. Environmentalists need to tap into the creative worlds of myth-making, even religion, not to better sell narrow and technical policy proposals but rather to figure out who we are and who we need to be. Above all else, we need to take a hard look at the institutions the movement has built over the last 30 years. Are existing environmental institutions up to the task of imagining the post-global warming world? Or do we now need a set of new institutions founded around a more expansive vision and set of values?If, for example, environmentalists don't consider the high cost of health care, R&D tax credits, and the overall competitiveness of the American auto industry to be "environmental issues," then who will think creatively about a proposal that works for industry, workers, communities and the environment? If framing proposals around narrow technical solutions is an ingrained habit of the environmental movement, then who will craft proposals framed around vision and values?One thing is certain: if we hope to achieve our objectives around global warming and a myriad of intimately related problems then we need to take an urgent step backwards before we can take two steps forward. Anyone who has spent time near wide and wild rivers know that crossing one on stepping stones requires first contemplating the best route. More often than not you must change your route halfway across. But, at the very least, by planning and pursuing a route you become conscious of the choices that you are making, how far you've really come, and where you still must go.We in the environmental community today find ourselves head-down and knee-deep in the global warming river. It's time we got back to shore and envisioned a new path for the crossing.
Footnotes1 The term "framing" -- once associated with activities like "framing the constitution" or "framing legislation" -- is today being used by environmentalists and other progressives as a more sophisticated-sounding term for "spinning." The work of linguist George Lakoff on how conservatives more effectively frame public debates than liberals is being badly misinterpreted. Lakoff argues that progressives need to reframe their thinking about the problem and the solutions. What most within the community are saying is that we simply need to use different words to describe the same old problems and solutions. The key to applying Lakoff's analysis is to see vision, values, policy, and politics all as extensions of language.2 This apt term was coined by a Packard program officer.3 Keith Bradsher, High and Mighty, Perseus: New York, 2002. Bradsher also cites historian Jack Doyle's Taken for a Ride: Detroit's Big Three and the Politics of Pollution (New York: 2001).4 Bradsher, as well as many other observers, has faulted the environmental community for doing next to nothing to tap into a concern about SUVs that is far more salient among the public than efficiency: safety. Environmentalists never ran a serious anti-SUV campaign based on the thousands of dead Americans who would have been alive today had the industry produced cars instead of SUVs. Apparently, in the minds of the community's leaders, safety is "not an environmental issue."5 September 16, 2004.6 Page 77.7 Quoted in Jim Collins' Good to Great.
About the AuthorsMichael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus look forward to hearing from readers of this report and meeting with teams interested in their Strategic Values Project, as described in the introduction. They can be emailed at and Shellenberger is a strategist for foundations, organizations and political candidates. He is executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, an organization advancing strategic initiatives to build a progressive majority, and president of Lumina Strategies, a political consulting firm. In 2003 Michael co-founded the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environment, business, and civil rights leaders working to win passage of a New Apollo Project to create three million new energy jobs and free America from foreign oil in ten years. Also in 2003 Michael co-founded the Business Ethics Network, which is organizing a nation-wide campaign to hold Wal-Mart accountable for its labor and environmental practices. He is the author of "Race to the Top: A Report on Ethical Business Campaigns." And in early 2004 Michael launched a campaign to put Martin Luther King, Jr. on the twenty-dollar bill -- Michael is a co-founder with Ted Nordhaus of the Strategic Values Science Project.In 1996 Michael co-founded and grew Communication Works to be California's largest public interest communications firm. Michael's work at Communication Works focused on publicizing the plight of Nike's factory workers with Global Exchange. He oversaw strategic communications for the campaign to protect the Headwaters redwood forest and in 1997 helped defeat a federal initiative that would have increased the incarceration of children in adult jails and prisons. In 2001 he merged Communication Works with Fenton Communications, which is the country's largest progressive PR and advertising agency.Michael has written articles on issues on the economy, energy, and foreign policy for L.A. Times, the American Prospect, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Diego Union Tribune. Michael is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and holds a Masters Degree in Anthropology from University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in El Cerrito, California.Ted Nordhaus is vice president of Evans/McDonough, one of the country's leading opinion research firms with offices in Washington, D.C., Oakland and Seattle. Ted specializes in crafting strategic initiatives aimed at reframing old debates in ways that build power for his clients. In 2003, Ted helped the Apollo Alliance to frame its proposal for a "New Apollo Project," which has brought together the country's leading environmental groups and labor unions around a bold vision of energy independence. Ted is also the co-founder and director of Strategic Values Science Project, a joint venture of Evans/McDonough, the Canadian market research firm Environics, and Lumina Strategies, a political strategy firm. Strategic Values has been commissioned to use corporate marketing research to create a Values Road Map for creating a progressive majority around core values, not political issues. Ted got his start in politics with the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), where he served as campaign director for California. Later, as campaign director for Share the Water, a coalition of environmentalists, fishermen, farmers, and urban water agencies, Ted oversaw campaigns to reform federal water policies in California. For two years Ted served as executive director of the Headwaters Sanctuary Project where he played a critical role in securing landmark environmental protections for the Headwaters Redwood Forest in Northern California. Before turning to polling Ted was a political strategist for Next Generation where his clients included Environmental Defense, the California Futures Network, and Clean Water Action. At Evans/McDonough, Ted specializes in land use and transportation issues, and brings more than 10 years of experience to interpreting survey research and moderating focus groups. His other clients include Oakland's Safe Passages program to keep youth in school and out of trouble, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the Contra Costa and Solano County transportation authorities, and the San Francisco Water Transit Authority.Ted holds a BA in history from the University of California, Berkeley.
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Death Wish
An interview with authors of the controversial essay "The Death of Environmentalism"
By Amanda Griscom Little, 13 Jan 2005,

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus stirred up quite a fuss when they unveiled their essay "The Death of Environmentalism" last fall, declaring the environmental movement kaput and calling for a more visionary and inspiring progressive movement to take its place. In an interview with Grist, Shellenberger and Nordhaus talk about their ideas, the responses they've gotten (or haven't), and what comes next. Get the backstory here.

What exactly do you mean by the death of environmentalism? Are you proposing that all existing environmental organizations should be shuttered, or that they should just nudge their strategies in a new direction?

Shellenberger: Neither. We need to create a set of very different institutions and, at the same time, not just nudge but transform existing environmental institutions into something more powerful. We are not saying that Natural Resources Defense Council or any of the big national environmental groups need to close their doors. We're saying that the environmental identity should be updated into something more relevant. What needs to die is a particular conception of what environmentalism is and how environmental advocacy and campaigns are organized and run.

In other words, you believe the current strategies are archaic, but the groups that built the movement will survive?

Nordhaus: They could, but they need to be radically reconceptualized. The very DNA of these institutions was constructed around a particular idea and model of doing politics, largely based on successes that the environmental movement had in the early '70s. They were developed to use scientific and legal expertise to identify a problem, craft a very specific technical policy solution to address that problem, and then go hire communications specialists and lobbyists and organizers to go sell that technical policy solution.

Shellenberger: That approach is failing for two reasons: First, the values, mindsets, frames of reference, and belief systems Americans use to make sense of the world have changed dramatically over the last 12 years, but the strategies of the environmental movement have not.

Second, we're faced with a set of massive ecological challenges -- global warming, global habitat destruction, global species destruction, deterioration of the world's oceans, the ozone hole -- that are fundamentally different from the kind of problems the environmental movement was constructed 30 years ago to address. On every one of these emerging issues, our national environmental movement has been strikingly ineffectual.

Your criticisms echo those we're hearing about the progressive movement at large -- criticism that liberals focus too much on precise policy prescriptions rather than communicating a broader values message.

Shellenberger: A critique similar to the one we've made on environmentalism could be made of many other single-issue movements -- women's rights, abortion rights, anti-war, criminal justice, labor, and so on. Each of those so-called movements has turned itself into a special interest in defining the problem so narrowly and offering technical policy solutions instead of an inspiring vision.

Nordhaus: The challenges environmentalists face are very similar to the challenges progressives in general face. Everything environmentalists do going forward needs to be driven not by individual policies, but by the politics -- capital P -- we want to build: the vision and values, the broader political coalition we need to accomplish our long-term social objectives.

Are you saying the environmental movement needs to team up with the other progressive factions to work together on a more holistic vision?

Shellenberger: Well, the issue movements did unite around the effort to get rid of Bush. They came together around a particular political strategy, but they didn't come together around a common vision for the country that's inspirational and aspirational, nor around a common set of core values.

What's an example of a device that could create the right political context?
Shellenberger: Take the proposal for a new Apollo Project. We cofounded the Apollo Alliance by starting first with core values to unify labor, community, civil-rights, and environmental movements around a vision of a new American future based on revitalizing our economic competitiveness and creating good jobs for millions of Americans. And whether or not it passes Congress right away doesn't matter -- Apollo can be used to put anti-environmentalist, anti-labor forces on the defensive. Those who vote against it will confront public scrutiny: "You voted against a program to create 3 million jobs?" By contrast, McCain-Lieberman [aka, the Climate Stewardship Act] doesn't have nearly the same kind of resonance: "You voted against a cap on carbon?" No senator is going to lose reelection for voting against McCain-Lieberman. Even if McCain-Lieberman passes, it will do nothing to strengthen the progressive movement or make a big difference in the debate over advancing our values.Nordhaus: Apollo changes the categories we use to discuss global warming in that it forces us to take off our environmentalist hat. We've got to stop talking about global warming narrowly in terms of carbon emissions and talk about a whole set of very different things -- the economy, people's futures, global trade, and competitiveness.

Shellenberger: The usefulness of any legislative proposal should be determined not just by whether it's going to reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere, but also whether it's going to create a cultural environment where much more dramatic and sweeping transformations can take place in the future.When the Republicans fought partial-birth abortion, every time they lost legislatively, they gained power in the court of public opinion and in Congress. They got the message out there, they changed people's thinking around abortion. We need to fight political battles that even if we lost for several years running, we may be in a stronger position than we are now.

Nordhaus: We need to start winning even when we lose. Right now, the environmental movement loses when it loses and even loses when it wins.

Interesting point, but the Apollo Alliance example doesn't convince me that environmentalism is dead. Apollo was founded almost entirely by old-guard environmentalists, which means the traditionalists are themselves generating a new vision.

Shellenberger: Of course! Both of us are born of the traditional environmental movement. Ted and I gave the last decade of our lives working as consultants to most of the big environmental organizations and many medium and smaller ones as well. We're not like Bjorn Lomborg or whatever. Still, Apollo isn't a panacea, and we took pains to make that point in "Death of Environmentalism." Apollo was a good start. Now the movement as a whole needs to transcend the moral and intellectual framework that defines modern environmentalism.

Can you give another example of the kind of device or initiative that would move the environmental movement beyond its current framework?

Nordhaus: What if we introduced a constitutional amendment that said that no state shall pay more in taxes to the federal government than it receives in expenditures from the federal government? What does that have to do with global warming? Well, it would tackle the subsidies dilemma that we've been trying to address for years: the federal highway subsidies, the energy subsidies, the coal and oil subsidies. New York and California, for instance, pay vastly more in federal taxes than they receive in federal expenditures and places like Alaska, Alabama, a whole raft of mostly rural and particularly Western and Southern states receive vastly more in federal expenditures than they pay in federal taxes. So this constitutional-amendment approach would take it out of an environmental context and create a political debate that problematizes the politics of subsidies. It recontextualizes the subsidy debate around fairness. Shellenberger: You could poke a hundred holes in it, but it shows that if you get out of your single-issue mindset, if you shake the kind of technical policy approach to this stuff, you can start coming up with creative solutions and campaigns that are both more interesting and, potentially, more powerful politically.

I see your point. Still it doesn't discount the fact that enviros are winning important victories at local levels, waging lawsuits over factory farming and endangered species and pollution that have very real meaning at the grassroots, if not the national, level.
Nordhaus: Consider this: Most of those local lawsuits are litigating the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. Meanwhile, under the new Republican-dominated Congress, it's not inconceivable that we're going to lose the ESA and NEPA. So while we may win a few more local lawsuits, the entire regulatory framework could get repealed. Shellenberger: Our argument is that you could win all your little lawsuits, we could pass all the legislation we have on the table locally and nationally, but we would be no closer to achieving our larger objectives. Think about how devastating of a critique that is: If we got everything we wanted right now, we would still be hurtling toward global-warming crisis. We would still be destroying the Amazon, the lungs of the planet. Environmentalists offer no inspiring vision for the world or for the country that speaks in any way to the magnitude of the crisis or to the potential of the American people to really make this transformation.
So you're not necessarily opposed to policy proposals like tighter Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and McCain-Lieberman, but you believe they are only baby steps?
Shellenberger: If we could pass McCain-Lieberman tomorrow, should we pass McCain-Lieberman tomorrow? Of course, why not? Do I think that McCain-Lieberman and CAFE on their own are sufficient? No. Would I support passing CAFE if, in the process of doing so, we poisoned the ground for building the alliance with labor and business we desperately need to substantially reduce carbon emissions in the United States? No.
How old are you guys?
Nordhaus: Michael's 33, I'm 39.
Do you consider yourselves next-gen environmentalists?
Nordhaus: No. There are 22-year-olds who think like Carl Pope and there are 60-year-olds who think like we do. We were criticizing a set of institutions and an intellectual framework, not a generation. Shellenberger: I consider myself a progressive, not an environmentalist. I'm done with "ists" and "isms" generally. I thought the most bizarre part of Carl's response to our paper was the accusation of patricide. Both of our parents have been involved in environmental policy. Ted's dad wrote significant sections of the Clean Air Act and CAFE. We love our parents and we love what they've done. In order to honor their legacy, we have to update it. Environmentalism is outmoded. Death is a part of the process of life. The idea that somehow the environmental movement is, or should be, immortal goes against everything that it claims to believe.
Are you saying that environmentalism has become a tradition, not a movement?
Nordhaus: Exactly. Movement implies going forward and making progress, tradition implies holding on to the past. After the 2004 [election] defeat there was no admission by environmental leaders that we got our asses handed to us on a platter and that we must rethink everything. Instead what we heard from environmental leaders was that they succeeded in the states and districts they targeted. In his response to our paper, Carl Pope agreed that we're facing a crisis and that enviros are politically weaker than they were 15 years ago, but then he went on to propose the same damn policies and politics that enviros have been pushing for 30 years.
So I take it you didn't find Pope's response to your paper convincing?
Shellenberger: We were baffled by it. Of all environmental leaders, we thought Carl would embrace this. He's the guy that reaches out the most to labor unions, he's the guy that fights anti-immigrant forces. He gave us the most extraordinary interview [when we were conducting research for the paper]. He, more than any other environmental leader, inspired the thesis of this paper.Nordhaus: Carl Pope is the first and, thus far, only major person in the environmental movement to have publicly engaged this discourse at all and for that, if nothing else, we commend him. We emailed all these guys after the article came out and asked if they'd be willing to have a dialogue and the silence has been deafening. Shellenberger: Yeah, it's like, God, please disagree with us. We would be honored.
Would you say that for the sake of creating debate and making your argument, you made exaggerations and generalizations?
Shellenberger: No way. I didn't say anything in there that I regret. Not a single sentence. And we didn't say anything in there that was designed to provoke. Our intention was not to make people angry, it was to start a debate.
Why, then, did you address your complaints directly to funders rather than to the leaders themselves? That seems inherently provocative.
Shellenberger: There is no place for public debate in the environmental movement. Even librarians have much fiercer public debates and dialogues than the environmental community. Or look at the AIDS movement, where public-health organizations and government agencies have fantastic debates every year. They have peer-reviewed journals and panel discussions at international conferences. Look at the intense debates over how to stem the flow of HIV/AIDS in Africa. The environmental movement needs a national or international forum to debate strategy. Nordhaus: We definitely wrote this to be provocative and get their attention. But [the Environmental Grantmakers Association meeting] was the only conference, the only place to really talk to the leaders of the movement. Where else should we have gone? There's no place to go.
What do you say to criticisms that in researching your paper you only interviewed the movement's technicians and not other leaders, like Wendell Berry?
Nordhaus: We interviewed the people in the environmental movement who are deciding how to spend tens of millions of dollars annually. Hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade have been spent to address global warming. I'm sorry, Wendell Berry isn't the person deciding how the enviro movement is going to construct its campaigns to address global warming. The people we talked to are. They are deciding where this movement is going, where the resources are going. They need to rethink their politics to make it morally compelling. They need to start talking about a future people want to be a part of.
Some detractors are saying your paper is nihilistic -- that it offers only criticisms and no real proposals for a rehabilitation plan.
Nordhaus: We know, we've said repeatedly, that our ideas are partially baked and that we need some help in reconstructing a viable political movement. This is not something that we can do in a 30-page pamphlet. We resisted suggestions from early reviewers of the paper to provide specific prescriptions because we wanted to begin a discussion and dialogue, not suggest that we had all the answers. Shellenberger: This paper is about coming to terms with change. Our message is that it's time to acknowledge both an end and a new beginning and not fear it. As the Taoist saying goes, "If you aren't afraid of dying, there is nothing you can't achieve."
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Amanda Griscom Little writes Grist's Muckraker column on environmental politics and policy and interviews green luminaries for the magazine. Her articles on energy and the environment have also appeared in publications ranging from Rolling Stone to The New York Times Magazine.

And Now for Something Completely Different
An in-depth response to "The Death of Environmentalism"
By Carl Pope, 13 Jan 2005

In December 2004, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope distributed this response to the essay "The Death of Environmentalism." Get the backstory here.

There Is Something Different About Global WarmingDear Environmental Grant-Maker:You may have recently received a memorandum entitled "The Death of Environmentalism" by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.I was one of the twenty-five people interviewed for this piece. While I personally was treated fairly, I am still deeply disappointed and angered by it. I share the thesis that some fundamental changes are needed in the way environmentalists approach the challenge of global warming. But I believe that their paper, because it is unfair, unclear and divisive, has actually muddied the water and made the task of figuring out a comprehensive and effective set of strategies more difficult.

Points of Agreement
Summed up, Shellenberger and Nordhaus (S&N) argue three relatively established points:a) We are making inadequate progress on global warming.b) We have inadequately mobilized public concerns and values to create political pressure. As a result decision makers have not been forced to confront the need for fundamental changes in the way our society uses carbon (and other greenhouse gasses).c) This inadequacy is related to a common set of failings and weaknesses which afflict progressive social movements in general, by contrast with the reinvigorated and more strategically integrated efforts of the hard right.I agree with these three points; indeed, it is hard to find anyone who doesn't agree with them. These concerns are widely and broadly shared among both environmental advocates and funders. The results of the election undoubtedly reinforced this consensus. There is nothing particularly new or striking, or controversial, about these points.

Where We Diverge
But Shellenberger and Nordhaus frame these three points within a very troublesome and divisive set of conclusions about the broader environmental movement. These conclusions do not flow from their interviews. They are not documented or justified in their paper. My fear is that these conclusions are so fundamentally flawed that they may distract us from the real work at hand -- to craft a set of understandings and approaches that will move us forward towards global warming solutions.

What They Overlook
Environmentalism is a broad, diverse and robust movement. It has provided some of the deepest and most questioning analysis of our ethical relationship to other species of our era. It deploys a wide variety of advocacy paradigms -- policy based interest group analysis is one, but there are also placed-based, values-driven and rights-rooted traditions and models to draw upon.Environmentalists have found it difficult to mobilize public support around global warming issues -- even in times and places when public outrage over issues like mercury poisoning or clear-cutting has been boiling over. There is something different about global warming.Environmentalism is part of a broader progressive movement, which the right has invested enormously in undercutting for the past thirty years. As part of that broader movement, we do have some work to do -- but dying does not seem a particularly helpful form of that work.

Their Argument
Their overall thrust, unfortunately, is summarized by the title of their paper, "The Death of Environmentalism." The arguments are internally contradictory, but the logic runs something like this:i) The leadership of the environmental movement, overall, are a bunch of narrowly focused and politically blinded policy wonks -- individually smart but collectively stupid.ii) This blindness is the result of the very definition of environmentalism. "The environmental community's belief that their power derives from defining themselves as defenders of "the environment" has prevented us from winning major legislation on global warming at the national level."iii) The environmental movement is in denial about the challenges it is facing. "In the face of perhaps the greatest calamity in modern history, environmental leaders are sanguine that selling technical solutions like florescent light bulbs, more efficient appliances, and hybrid cars will be sufficient to muster the necessary political strength to overcome the alliance of neoconservative ideologues and industry interests in Washington, D.C."iv) The history of both Kyoto and CAFE standards reveals a consistent failure on the part of the environmental movement to comprehend that effective strategies to decarbonize the economy must take into account the priorities and needs of other players -- the American auto industry, auto workers, labor in general, and the broader progressive community.v) The environmental movement is incapable of responding to the challenge because its leaders are mired in the successes of the 1970's. "It was then, at the height of the movement's success, that the seeds of failure were planted. The environmental community's success created a strong confidence -- and in some cases bald arrogance -- that the environmental protection frame was enough to succeed at a policy level."vi) As a result, we must consider junking the institutional framework of the environmental movement. "We need to take a hard look at the institutions the movement has built over the last 30 years. Are existing environmental institutions up to the task of imagining the post-global warming world? Or do we now need a set of new institutions founded around a more expansive vision and set of values?"vii) The existing leadership is bankrupt and incapable of responding to the challenges of the twenty-first century. They should step aside to allow a new generation of leaders to take over. "Most of the movement's leading thinkers, funders and advocates do not question their most basic assumptions about who we are, what we stand for, and what it is that we should be doing."viii) Indeed, the environmental movement itself should pass from the scene. It's time has come and gone. "We have become convinced that modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live."

Do Shellenberger and Nordhaus Make Their Case?
This second set of arguments makes a very large set of claims, indeed. Given that they wrote their piece in a few months after only 25 interviews, it may not be surprising that Shellenberger and Nordhaus failed to adequately buttress such a far-reaching set of assertions. It is not clear what possessed them to try to build such an ambitious premise on such a flimsy foundation. Boldness and hubris are closely related.Their case is not only flimsy, it is internally contradictory and misleading. I still think it is important to address their arguments because, unchallenged, they may distract us from a set of very real challenges which require extending and rethinking our approach to global warming advocacy, not junking modern environmentalism.

Who Are Environmentalists?
S&N assert, "the environment is a category that reinforces the notions that a) the environment is a separate "thing" and b) human beings are separate from and superior to the "natural world". The two major ethical streams in modern environmentalism are deep ecology and environmental justice. Neither accepts either of these notions. Who were they thinking of when they made these statements? They offer not a single quote to suggest that anyone they interviewed believes that human beings are "separate from and superior to the natural world." Not one.It would be hard to think of a social movement struggling harder to free itself from these two "notions" than environmentalism. But it is environmentalism whose death they advocate.In other places, S&N appear to define the environmental movement as the 25 people they interviewed. When they urge that "environmentalists need to tap into the creative worlds of myth-making, even religion, not to better sell narrow and technical policy proposals but rather to figure out who we are and who we need to be," they utterly ignore such leaders as Wendell Berry, Paul Shepherd, Thomas Barry, Terry Tempest Williams, and Barry Leopold. They interviewed 25 policy people, and then complain that they got only policy expertise from their interviews. Environmentalism has both poets and wonks; you don't go to your legislative counsel for a sonnet, nor to your troubadour for a reply brief.

Is the Definition the Problem?
S&N complain that "Most environmentalists don't think of 'the environment' as a mental category at all -- they think of it as a real "thing" to be protected and defended. They think of themselves, literally, as representatives and defenders of this thing."So?Without being too precious, the environment is a real thing. There is a global carbon cycle, human interventions are a small if meaningful part of the evolutionary process, homo sapiens depend upon a complex web of both geochemical and biological processes. Natural processes -- eutrophication, competition, speciation, nutrient cycling, sequestration -- continue around us according to their own dynamics. We influence, but do not control, the climate. Of course our understanding of these phenomena proceeds through mental constructs which are not the phenomena themselves -- we've known that since Kant.But I don't think that the definition of what constitutes an environmental problem is the arbitrary and troublesome source of weakness that S&N suggest. They have erected, and then blown aside, a straw man. For example, they assert that "the environmental movement's failure to craft inspiring and powerful proposals to deal with global warming is directly related to the movement's reductive logic about the supposedly root causes (e.g., "too much carbon in the atmosphere") of any given environmental problem."This charge does not explain why this same inadequate definition of what constitutes environmentalism has proven potent when applied to wilderness preservation, mercury in our waterways, or sewage in our basements. Environmentalism has failed with regard to global warming precisely in contrast to its success in mobilizing public passions on these other problems. This strongly suggests that we need to look not at what these problems have in common -- the movement's definitions of the environment -- but what is unique or different about global warming.

Are Environmental Leaders Clueless and Naive?
S&N argue that environmentalists are living in lotus land about how they are faring. In addition to the claim that our movement believes that better light bulbs will solve the global warming problem, they maintain that "environmentalists are particularly upbeat about the direction of public opinion thanks in large part to the polling they conduct that shows wide support for their proposals. Yet America is a vastly more right-wing country than it was three decades ago. The domination of American politics by the far-right is a central obstacle to achieving action on global warming. Yet almost none of the environmentalists we interviewed thought to mention it."I spend a great deal of my time with environmental leaders. I know of none that I would describe as "sanguine" that technical solutions will solve the problem of global warming. I have participated in dozens of debates about the meaning of public opinion polls, none of which were particularly "upbeat." I can testify that environmental leaders like those S&N interviewed think about the power and success of the right almost obsessively. I seriously doubt that S&N asked any one of their interviewees if they thought this was a problem and got the answer, "No, nothing to worry about."

A Flawed Argument From History
S&N then make an argument from history, saying that there have been no epoch making big wins in recent decades like those of the late 60's and early 70's. They specifically criticize environmentalists for a series of strategic and movement building failures, narrating the history of global warming advocacy since the 1980's. But again they fail to show why if the problem is environmentalism, labor and social justice movements have also done very poorly since 1980.On the specifics of global warming, their historical narrative is sadly incomplete and riddled with inaccuracies and internal inconsistencies. I and the Sierra Club have been part of the CAFE battle longer than any of the sources S&N cite in their history. But in our interview they never asked me any questions about the history of the environmental movement's engagement with either the auto companies or the UAW on fuel efficiency. As a result, they got the story almost entirely wrong.For example, the Sierra Club has consistently understood CAFE as a program which needed to be used to preserve and enhance the US auto industry, the very point they attack environmentalists for ignoring. As early as the Carter Administration the Sierra Club sought an alliance with the UAW on domestic content legislation to free the union up to become again an advocate for change among the domestic manufacturers. Environmentalists have also continuously and intensely explored ways to make the program work for both the unions and the domestic manufacturers by offering tax credits or other mechanisms to finance the necessary catch-up by Detroit.The authors claim that in the 1990's, "having gathered 59 votes -- one short of what's needed to stop a filibuster -- Senator Richard Bryan nearly passed legislation to raise fuel economy standards in 1990. But one year later, when Bryan had a very good shot at getting the 60 votes he needed, the environmental movement cut a deal with the automakers. In exchange for the auto industry's opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, environmentalists agreed to drop their support for the Bryan bill."This is rubbish. This statement appears to be based on a quote in Keith Bradsher's book drawn in turn from an earlier work by Jack Doyle. The reality is that Senator Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, to get an omnibus energy bill which included drilling the Arctic beyond a Senate filibuster and into conference with the House, included a 37 mpg CAFE standard as part of that bill. Auto companies opposed the bill, making it clear that the CAFE proposal would not survive conference with the House. Environmental groups opposed it because it was clear that drilling the Arctic would survive such a conference and would end up on the President's desk to be signed. Senator Bryan, far from being abandoned by environmentalists, was one of the first Senators to sign up for the filibuster against the Johnston-Wallop bill.Johnston offered repeated carrots in exchange for drilling the Arctic; there was never any evidence that he had the capacity or intention to deliver on any of them; environmentalists, wisely in my view, rejected them all.Not only is this rubbish, it is dangerous rubbish. Because already, two weeks after the 2004 election, there are discussions that once again environmentalists should abandon their battle to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in exchange for some forward progress on reducing carbon emissions.What none of these discussions acknowledge is this: It is the carbon lobby that wants to drill the refuge. It is the carbon lobby that does not want to reduce carbon emissions. If the oil industry, the Bush Administration and the state of Alaska have the votes to drill the Arctic, they will do so -- they have no reason to give environmentalists something in exchange.If environmentalists had the votes to do something to reduce carbon emissions, they should do so. They wouldn't need to trade the Arctic, and they shouldn't. This is not a market where one party owns the Arctic and can sell it in exchange for more fuel efficient trucks. The policy logic of drilling the Arctic and the policy logic of reducing carbon emissions are diametrically opposed. So this is not a rational public policy debate about how to craft a better energy policy by combining different priorities.This is a power struggle about which way to go -- more carbon or less.

Are We Mired In the Past?
The authors assert repeatedly, but never document, that the environmental movement is still approaching things as it learned to do in the early 1970's. All that the authors offer to buttress this crucial claim is the following:"By failing to question their most basic assumptions about the problem and the solution, environmental leaders are like generals fighting the last war -- in particular the war they fought and won for basic environmental protections more than 30 years ago. It was then that the community's political strategy became defined around using science to define the problem as "environmental" and crafting technical policy proposals as solutions."The greatest achievements to reduce global warming are today happening in Europe....."Environmentalists are learning all the wrong lessons from Europe. We closely scrutinize the policies without giving much thought to the politics that made the policies possible."We do need to examine the European experience. But when we do, we find the same definition of global warming as an environmental problem, and the same technical policy solutions. What is different is the politics of carbon. European nations have been carbon importers for much longer than the U.S., and most have nationalized those industries so that they are no longer independent political actors.

Should We Junk Our Institutions?
Here's where shoddy research is so damaging.S&N assert there is a void needing to be filled. "If, for example, environmentalists don't consider the high cost of health care, R&D tax credits, and the overall competitiveness of the American auto industry to be "environmental issues," then who will think creatively about a proposal that works for industry, workers, communities and the environment? If framing proposals around narrow technical solutions is an ingrained habit of the environmental movement, then who will craft proposals framed around vision and values?"Good questions -- IF. But the full record, as I mention above, shows that environmental groups have incorporated competitiveness into their thinking for 26 years. They continue to do so. In the summer of 2002 the Sierra Club joined the Steelworkers in calling for federal action to relieve steel companies of their legacy pension and health costs. This action, which the authors call unthinkable, was fairly routine for us. Contrary to the author's stated assumption, no one in the environmental movement was critical of the Club for taking this stance. In fact, we got a lot of praise.The perception that the movement is overly obsessed with technical solutions appears to be an artifact of S&N having focused their interviews on the movement's technicians. Again, to make such a claim about leaders like Randy Hayes or Dave Foreman is absurd -- but neither of them was interviewed. The author's entire edifice thus rests on sand. The tide is still coming in and out, and the environmental movement, leaders and institutions both, are still growing and changing like the ecosystem they are.

Is the Problem Generational?
The authors start out with an almost ritualized obeisance to earlier generations of environmentalists:"Those of us who are children of the environmental movement must never forget that we are standing on the shoulders of all those who came before us. The clean water we drink, the clean air we breathe, and the protected wilderness we treasure are all, in no small part, thanks to them. The two of us have worked for most of the country's leading environmental organizations as staff or consultants. We hold a sincere and abiding respect for our parents and elders in the environmental community. They have worked hard and accomplished a great deal. For that we are deeply grateful."They then move on to an almost equally ritualized sacrifice."Most of the movement's leading thinkers, funders and advocates do not question their most basic assumptions about who we are, what we stand for, and what it is that we should be doing."An anthropologist would be thrilled to find patricide still servings its ritual purpose.Having framed the basic issues as generational, they spend the rest of the paper savaging their "parents and elders." (It's not clear who delegated the two of them to speak for the children in this generationally divided family they have hypothesized.)Yet there's simply no evidence in the paper that there are any consistent differences on the crucial issues between different generations within the environmental movement. I freely grant that there are, and should be, different generational leadership styles, different understandings of how to advance environmental change, different political strategies. But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever in the S&N paper that on the key issues they raise the differences are generational. Do younger environmental ethicists see issues differently than their predecessors? Is there less interest in the technical issues of carbon trading among younger economists within the environmental movement? Do older environmental justice advocates fail to see the need to be more inclusive?S&N have taken the normal, important, and inevitable segmentation within the environmental movement, and pretended that it can be explained as a matter of generational succession -- without an iota of evidence.

The End of Environmentalism?
Perhaps the most self-serving and damaging paragraph in the paper is the following:"At the same time, we believe that the best way to honor their achievements is to acknowledge that modern environmentalism is no longer capable of dealing with the world's most serious ecological crisis."I say self serving because, given that the chosen audience of the paper was the funders, it will be hard for many readers to avoid the suspicion that the not so hidden message was "fund us instead."And I say damaging because by mingling the issue of the need for deeper and more effective global warming strategies with an ill-thought out assault on environmentalism, Shellenberger and Nordhaus are likely to create defensiveness, not receptivity; resistance, not movement; back-lash, not progress.

Do They Offer a Better Way?
If the paper offered a clear and constructive path forward, the internal contradictions of the analysis would matter less. They would be offering a better reasoned "what" instead of merely suggesting themselves as "who." Instead, they have offered a hodge podge. They are clear, as others have been, that focusing just on tactics is not enough, that we need to engage people as moral beings and tap into their deepest values. They join the chorus which has pointed out that alliances need to be based on true mutuality, and that environmentalists and progressives need to follow the example of the hard right in doing long range thinking and work. These are all very useful, if not strikingly new concepts. But in their zeal to deconstruct the concept of modern environmentalism, and to proclaim their readiness to offer a better way forward, Shellenberger and Nordhaus failed to provide their own answers to some very basic and troublesome questions.They do not seem to have sorted out whether they think we should abandon or embrace the "tell the world how many of its problems are due to global warming frame" or what role technological optimism should play in our efforts and communications strategies. They do not touch the thorny question of how they stand on the long dialogue among social change theorists about whether incremental behavioral change leads to newer and eventually larger changes in thinking, which then enables new behavioral change or whether it is essential to first create new mental maps which enable behavioral change.Shellenberger and Nordhaus defend their failure to come up with a new vision by saying it would be premature and presumptuous:"We resisted the exhortations from early reviewers of this report to say more about what we think must now be done because we believe that the most important next steps will emerge from teams, not individuals. Over the coming months we will be meeting with existing and emerging teams of practitioners and funders to develop a common vision and strategy for moving forward."Unfortunately, by failing to offer their own ideas for scrutiny they rendered their report nihilistic -- able to destroy but not create.
An Alternative ViewShellenberger and Nordhaus do make one extremely compelling point:"Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 1990s is that, in the end, the environmental community had still not come up with an inspiring vision, much less a legislative proposal, that a majority of Americans could get excited about."And buried in their paper's misguided deconstruction of environmentalism are some extremely useful clues they picked up from their interviews about where we might go:1) Environmental advocacy has been dramatically less effective dealing with global warming than with clean air, clean water, wilderness or wildlife. That suggests that part of the problem is not a generic feature of environmentalism, but some specific differences between global warming and these other problems. Such differences are not difficult to identify. The environmental challenges which gave rise to the reforms of the early 1970's, on which the progress of the next 30 years rests, had tangible, local, and immediate consequences for the public. Lake Erie was dying under the boats of fishermen, the Cuyahoga River could be seen to burn by Clevelanders, New Yorkers had to change their shirt in the middle of the day, and children in Los Angeles could not go out and play hundreds of days a year.The problems that environmentalism has failed to get a grasp on, or develop a deep public commitment and attention to, by contrast, are intangible, global and future oriented. Global warming, habitat fragmentation, and the loading of global ecosystems with persistent but toxic and disruptive industrial chemicals are simply harder for an opportunistic, reactive primate species to understand as threats.2) Environmental advocacy has been less potent in the 1990's than in previous decades. So has advocacy for the broader progressive community agenda -- for justice. We have made some progress on the individualistic side of the progressive ledger -- public tolerance for racial diversity has increased, the gay and lesbian community has made dramatic strides.But on questions of justice progressives have been losing. The labor movement, advocates for health care reform, tax justice advocates have all fared as badly as or worse than environmentalists. So whatever ails environmentalism ails these other movements as well.The landscape on which politics has played out has changed radically. Faced with what one commentator called America's first "anti-enlightenment President" sound science alone will not carry the day. We ARE in a culture war, and rational collective self interest IS an inadequate approach.Shellenberger and Nordhaus are thus, it seems to me, correct when they say that environmentalism is falling short because it shares with the rest of the progressive movement a set of increasingly outmoded organizing, advocacy and political approaches. It is strategically disadvantaged when confronted with value based, longer range, and more carefully framed hard-right advocacy. But this is a case for modernizing the left, not for killing environmentalism.3) One element of the left's weakness is its emphasis on technical policy analysis, not values. This weakness goes right back to the technocratic emphasis of the Progressive Movement, and of early conservationists. This approach -- interest group politics -- was codified in the 1920's by Walter Lippman and refined after World War II by writers like John Kenneth Galbraith.Interest group politics assumed that American political parties were loose coalitions, and that the congressional and presidential branches of each party were competing for power. Interest groups could thus recruit support from individual policy makers regardless of their ostensible partisan ties. As American politics, if not the American constitution, has been moved by the right in an ever more parliamentary, party-driven direction, interest group policy advocacy becomes increasingly impotent.
Some SolutionsBut working backward from this last weakness, it is important to remember, as Shellenberger and Nordhaus do not, that policy-based interest group advocacy is only ONE of the major organizing frameworks the modern environmental movement has employed.Much of environmental advocacy has been place based, not policy driven, and involved creating a community vision of the desired state of a landscape, and then creating institutions charged with achieving that set of goals. (The National Park System and the Wilderness Act on the one hand, and such institutions as the California Coastal Commission on the other are prototypes.)Other environmental advocacy has been values driven, with certain "wrong" industrial practices or technologies banned or eliminated. (Most of the current work around genetic engineering is a good example of this, as was the anti-nuclear movement of the 1980's.) And some of the most successful environmental work has aimed to create new forms of rights, so that citizens could assume more control over a wide range of decisions impacting them. (The National Environmental Policy Act, citizens suits provisions, the right-to-know movement, California's Prop 65)These other forms of environmental advocacy are full of promise for global warming.A striking example of one strategy to transform the global warming debate using a different, but entirely familiar form of environmental advocacy, would be to apply the well established values frame of the "polluter pays" principle.From this perspective, at its heart, the global warming debate is not complicated. It is simply very difficult because it is about who is going to pay.Kyoto is an attempt to start down the road that everyone knows will have a very large bill, without ever deciding who will pay for the bill. Which is why, in my view, Kyoto has gone nowhere in the U.S. Confronted with a potential liability, as long as I think I won¹t have to pay the bill, I'll hire my lawyer. That's what the US carbon lobby has done. They know carbon is a liability. They don't want to pay the bill.This understanding that global warming is mainly a problem about who is going to pay -- which in turn depends on who we assume owned the sky to begin with -- has been articulated on the left by Peter Barnes and on the right by Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago School of Law -- normally one of environmentalism's major opponents.But if we frame global warming as pollution, and assert that the polluter should pay, then suddenly this otherwise completely abstruse, overly technical problem becomes much easier for the public to understand.We can then get people to recognize that you shouldn¹t be electrifying villages in India by hanging copper wires between them. You should be electrifying them with methane generators and windmills -- and the polluters, the emitters of carbon, ought to be paying for them.We know that if we lay this necessity on the table, the other side will respond with their own values frame -- one focused on accommodation, not prevention. Here S&N seem to miss the point completely. They again fall back on their lament that the problem is the definition of the environment:"What do we worry about when we worry about global warming? Is it the refugee crisis that will be caused when Caribbean nations are flooded? If so, shouldn't our focus be on building bigger sea walls and disaster preparedness? Is it the food shortages that will result from reduced agricultural production? If so, shouldn't our focus be on increasing food production? Is it the potential collapse of the Gulf Stream, which could freeze upper North America and northern Europe and trigger, as a recent Pentagon scenario suggests, world war?"Most environmental leaders would scoff at such framings of the problem and retort, 'Disaster preparedness is not an environmental problem.'"In fact, in refusing to accept accommodation as a proper response, environmentalists have been doing exactly what S&N advocate -- organizing around values. In rejecting accommodation, environmentalists are choosing prevention over compensation, prudence over risk. Environmentalists have repeatedly pointed out that the right's choice of "accommodation" instead of "prevention" as a response to atmospheric greenhouse gas overload is futile -- not because it is not environmental, but because it won't work. We simply won't build a sea wall around Florida, much less around the Gangetic Delta in Bangla Desh -- and a sea wall won't stop a hurricane, or save coral reefs.There is a deep values conflict between the modern hard right on the one hand, and traditional conservatives and environmentalism on the other. It has to do with the conflict between prudence/prevention vs. risk/retaliation. Environmentalists have been pretty consistent in taking the side of traditionalism -- prudence, the precautionary principle, prevention -- against the hard libertarian right. We need to do this more explicitly around global warming.But again, environmental discourse gives us tools we can use effectively to move the public conversation on global warming -- even though they are not the tools of interest-group lobbying.Following this one line of possible alternative reasoning, how do we frame global warming as pollution? More particularly, how do we frame burning fossil fuel as pollution, because that is how the ordinary person will encounter this issue? Here's where it's not enough to think of global warming as a policy, or even a political problem. It's a conceptual problem. And it's a conceptual problem that environmentalism dealt with before, when it encountered the early view that "the smell of pollution is the smell of money."As long as we view developing oil, coal and gas as development, as a form of economic advancement, it will be very hard, simultaneously, to say that we should charge people lots of money for doing so -- it feels like a punishment for success.That's yet another reason why conventional interest group advocacy won't work on this issue -- it's more than the new power of the right. Neither moderate Republicans nor Democrats have been able to shake themselves loose of the regional power of the carbon lobby. No one, environmentalists or some broader group that S&N might imagine, will be able to solve the problem of global warming by persuading members of the House and Senate that there are good alternatives, and that if we do the right things we can get rid of oil and coal and still have a good economy with lots and lots of stuff to consume. That case has been made aptly and effectively, in DC (and elsewhere).What the environmental community must grapple with is, "How do you deal with the reality that not everyone in Washington thinks a world without oil and coal is a good thing?" America's leaders think that, overall, producing fossil fuels is a form of progress. And they have ample incentives to keep on thinking that way. That's why, in my view there is no elite solution. You can't bring the world's leaders together to solve this problem. The world's leaders are the problem.We need to start talking about our current pattern of consuming ever more carbon as a public health problem not an economic solution. A hundred years ago open sewers were common. Today, if we were to see an overflowing open sewer, and someone said make it twice as wide to handle all the new sewage, we would not think that was a good thing (and a mayor who proposed that would be in trouble).We won't make progress as long as we conceptualize fossil fuel consumption as a good thing (along the recent lines laid out by the World Bank) instead of presenting fossil fuel consumption as our century's open sewer. But once we start thinking about fossil fuel consumption in this way, we need to recognize that the political problem gets bigger before it get smaller. We have to deal with the reality that there are win-win solutions for the economy as a whole, but not for Exxon -- (or the Saudis.) We should acknowledge that it's not a win-win for Exxon. (There can be win-wins for General Motors.) The conversation we are having should be about an entirely different energy future, one which will mean a dramatic reconfiguration of the world's wealth. Now how will we get that done?Fully exploiting the potential of the pollution frame is, again, only one potential course for reframing the issue of global warming.Another is to take advantage of place-based environmentalism. One of the major global warming issues is that there are a huge number of coal fired power plants being proposed in the US -- about 112 gigawatts. If approved and built, these will have operating lifetimes in excess of 60 years. Their carbon dioxide emissions alone will drastically impair the US's ability to cut its emissions. They will also preempt the market for wind and solar. So if they are built, we are cooked.But they must be built somewhere. Wherever they are built there are place based advocacy tools to resist, which have been used quite successfully, say, in Colorado, as part of an integrated campaign to encourage wind and solar. So here is another example of reshaping an existing advocacy approach from the traditions of the environmental movement to make effective forward progress on global warming.Again, I would say we did something much like that in the late 60's or 70's with pollution, in the 80's with nuclear power, and have been having surprising success doing it in the last decade with genetically modified foods.Global warming is a more abstract, distant problem; the economic transformation required is bigger; it needs deeper, more robust, more sustained collaborations; it needs to be harnessed to a broader vision of a new economic order. There is more than enough hard work to go around. We ought not to get distracted by conversations about "the death of environmentalism"; we should avoid allowing ourselves to be divided by glib generalizations about generational divides; we should above all be creative, not destructive.

Confusion With the Apollo Alliance
Because I am one of the co-chairs of the Apollo Alliance, and because S&N referred so heavily to the Alliance, I went to the trouble of checking with the other leaders of Apollo to see what their involvement in this piece had been. Their response makes it very clear that Shellenberger and Nordhaus were speaking only for themselves, and that the Apollo Alliance as a whole had not even seen this document before it was distributed:Another unfortunate aspect of the paper was that it left the impression that the Apollo Alliance sanctioned the substance, criticism or tone of the analysis. In fact, Alliance partners such as my fellow Alliance co-chair Leo Gerard (Steelworkers), as well as key partners Robert Borosage (Institute of America's Future), Dan Carol (CTSG), Joel Rogers (Center on Wisconsin Strategy), as well as Alliance Executive Director Bracken Hendricks did not see a copy of the paper until it was released for EGA, nor were they aware of its existence before its release.Of particular concern to Alliance partners is the suggestion in the paper, real or implied, that the Apollo Alliance's model green jobs investment plan released last year, was, in any way, a complete "solution" to the climate change challenge we face. The Apollo vision is animated by the strength of environmental values and the vitality of a popular movement that is one of the great hopes for re-tooling the nation's policies to create clean energy jobs, a sustainable economy, and a safer world.Most disturbingly, to me and the Apollo team, was that the paper was not in the spirit of our project, which has been seeking for the last two years to evangelize and create innovative new alliances and partnerships for tomorrow -- not practice the "push-off" politics of the past.These at-times painstaking efforts have sought to balance the passions of many, many stakeholders; and so it was disappointing to me and the Apollo team to see the passions of a few, however well meant, to raise their voices over others. It is not how we operate, and it's surely not how we will succeed together.Sincerely,Carl PopeExecutive DirectorSierra Club
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