October 4, 2007
Bad Boys of Environmental Movement Offer New Vision in Break Through
|The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World (pdf)|
|Reaction to "The Death of Environmentalism"|
|Don't Fear the Reapers: A special series on the alleged "Death of Environmentalism," Grist Magazine, (Jan. 15, 2005)|
NPR Talk of the Nation podcast (Mar. 18, 2005)
In October 2004, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus became the "bad boys" of the environment movement with the release of their paper, "The Death of Environmentalism." In it they argued that the US environmental movement had become just another special interest group lead by myopic technocrats who focused on a tired, narrowly defined set of issues and advocated for piecemeal procedural solutions that keep an army of attorneys and lobbyists employed. Their point, their concern signaled in the subtitle of the paper, "Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World," was that the political and legal tactics that dealt with acid rain and the like were inadequate to deal with global warming.
Three years later, Shellenberger and Nordhaus new book, Break Through: From "The Death of Environmentalism" to the Politics of Possibility, is now available. In his review of the book, Wired's Mark Horowitz says,"Green groups may carp, but the truth is that the book could turn out to be the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring." Two Environmentalists Anger Their Brethren. [JH]
Break Through: From "The Death of Environmentalism" to the Politics of Possibility
by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
List Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co (October 4, 2007)
From the Book Description. If environmentalists and progressives are to seize the moment offered by the collapse of the Bush presidency, they must break from the politics of limits, and grapple with some inconvenient truths of their own. The old pollution and conservation paradigms have failed. The nations that ratified the Kyoto protocol have seen their greenhouse gas emissions go up, not down. And tropical rain forest deforestation has accelerated.
What the new ecological crises demand is not that we constrain human power but unleash it. Overcoming global warming demands not pollution control but rather a new kind of economic development. We cannot tear down the old energy economy before building the new one. The invention of the Internet and microchips, the creation of the space program, the birth of the European Union - those breakthroughs were only made possible by big and bold investments in the future.
The era of small thinking is over, the authors claim. We must go beyond small-bore environmentalism and interest-group liberalism to create a politics focused as much on uncommon greatness as the common good.
Break Through offers more than policy prescriptions and demands more than casual consideration. With its challenge to conventional environmentalist, conservative, and progressive thought, and its proposal for a politics of possibility, Break Through will influence the political debate for years to come.
Editor's Note: Environmental advocates have finally managed to put the issue of global warming at the top of the world's agenda. But the scientific, economic, and political realities may mean that their efforts are too little, too late. See Paul J. Saunders & Vaughan Turkekian, Why Climate Change Can't Be Stopped, Foreign Policy (September 2007). Meanwhile, for a politics of the absurd, see this recent Bush Administration document: Toward a New Global Approach to Climate Change and Energy Security. [JH]
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