The Economist

April 2005

The Economist ran as their cover story this week an opinion column called “Rescuing Environmentalism.” It was spurred by the recent Death of Environmentalism article by Shellenberger and Nordhaus. The Economist declares: “They are right.”

To some extent I agree with The Economist. The movement that was started in the 50’s and 60’s, the movement that is what is stereotypically thought of when the word environmentalist is brought up, the movement of saving the whales and forming human chains around trees and aspiring to “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is dead or at the very least dying. This may be attacking a straw man, but the straw man I’m painting is still what most people think of when they think “environmentalist.”

The death of that environmentalism, of the knee jerk response that anything nuclear, anything free market, anything grown farther than 25 miles away, anything corporate, is automatically bad, is a good thing and a step in the right direction. If you think that there is no one left who fits into this mold, please see the comments of jdhlax over at Gristmill.

The Economist gets it wrong, however, by assuming that the entire movement fits into this mold. There are plenty, in the US in particular, who are redefining the “movement” and incorporating free markets, an openness to nuclear power (or at least an openness to talk about it), a willingness to consider cost benefit analysis, and an understanding that little things such as, oh, I don’t know, the economy matter too. See the Apollo Alliance, Grist, The Commons, just to name and link to a few.