Thursday, June 02, 2005

Discussion Spot

Welcome to the sounding board for "Lessons from the Right: Saving the Soul of the Environmental Movement." This blog site is intended to be used as a discussion site for all who wish to post comments about our paper. For the full PDF version, please visit our website at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the paper. I feel that the Progressives need a tagline. The Conservative's tagline is “The Liberal Elite…"

I think then when discussing Conservative people and issues the progressives should say something like "The trouble with the conservative manipulators is ......"

As in "The trouble with the conservative manipulators like Rush Limbaugh is that when he abuses drugs he explains why his drug problem isn't a real problem"

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Josh in arlington said...

I like that a lot. Manipulation is a powerful frame.

The Rove coalitian is basically made up of 3 groups:

Free Lunch Billionaires ("don't tax me, I'm rich"), Evangelical Extremists ("belive in God the way we tell you or go to hell and die!"), and then there's the working class that I see being manipulated by the powerful influence of the former 2.

I don't like using the word "conservative" because I think it empowers the manipulators, but maybe right-wing manipulators, or radical evangelical manipulators, or free lunch billionaire manipulators...

thanks for that one

12:56 PM  
Blogger VOR said...

Jeni and Dahvi,

I was forwarded your paper by a former graduate student of mine and I read it with much interest. While I think you make some good points (just as the authors of Death of Environmentalism) I tend to disagree with your basic conclusions. Below is a list of comments/critiques in no particular order.

1. On the whole I think what people are taking as failure of the environmental movement is actually a product of its amazing success. 30 years ago most people had never heard the word environmentalist and now 85% of people consider themselves one. The movement has won major victories in almost every sphere and in every election cycle billions in bond initiatives for conservation pass in BOTH red and blue states. The movement has become such a solid part of American life with so many real victories that people take it for granted now.

2. The environment is much better now than it was 30-50 years ago and the reason people don't have such strong feelings about many environmental issues is because of this. In most areas the water and air are much cleaner and there is more protected open space. Here in CA where I live, which is one of the most environmentally-minded states in the union, the public's perception of the importance of environmentalism has decreased by 15+ points in the past 20 years. Why? Because the quality of life has improved and it's not such a major thing to worry about anymore. Think about it: is the relative low visibility of civil rights issues in America a product of their failure? Of course not, the victories were so huge that (despite there being more work to be done) that civil rights is not such a pressing issue for most Americans anymore.

3. But you say, what about global warming- the greatest challenge we face? The answer to why we haven't dealt with this is as simple as it gets and I find it amusing that people are foolish enough (not you all) to suggest that the lack of a major plan on global warming demonstrates a massive failure of environmentalism. Global warming's costs are highly speculative, uncertain, dispersed, concentrated in poorer countries, and off in the future, and dealing with them entails massive changes in society. Any simple political economy model would predict that it would be one of the hardest issues to address even with a strong environmental movement. That being said, major steps are underway (even in the U.S.) and the world community is coming around. Don't be surprised if the next U.S. president enacts some serious legislation.

4. What I think is the major problem with environmentalism is its "crisis mentality"- everything is couched within terms of the "roof falling in"- but the boy has cried wolf many times already and people aren't buying it anymore. A more constructive dialog is in order. Second, environmentalists have greatly weakened the movement, by remaining largely antagonistic and ignorant of basic economics and economic policy, and continually relying on perspectives that seem to want to ban activities or greatly regulate them. Couching solutions within the context of free market principles and efficiency and fairness using economic reasoning would do way more to get the right on board than any other reframing out there.

5. To provide an example, this article just came out in the Sierra Club's magazine:

It is one of the most misguided and poorly reasoned articles I have ever read, but this is still what passes for "economic critiques" in many environmental circles. I have submitted a semi-reply to this article.

6. In summary, I think you and others a) overestimate environmentalists current malaise, and b) your prescriptions are not entirely on the mark. A last example: I wish we could see what the world would be like if for the last 10 years, instead of campaigning against globalization and the WTO, activists had been campaigning against agricultural and other resource subsidies in the U.S. and Europe saying that they violate the rules of the free market- that would've produced some amazing changes. You see what I'm getting at?

Anyway, the best to you and please let me know what you think.


11:04 AM  

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