Debating the Movement’s Future

I read your cover story "Is the Green Movement in the Dumps?" (May/ June 2005), and I have some feedback as a lifelong green, educator and policy guy. George Lakoff has it right, but if he has to be paid $350,000 to "re-frame" the issues in plain English, then we are already dead. We are so out of touch with regular folks outside of the college campus and liberal cities that it is sad.

Environmentalism became popular through identifying, fighting for and winning on local issues—not global ones. Americans do not think locally now and may never. Let’s deal with it. The U.S. green agenda began to lose steam and the respect of mainstream Americans when everyone stupidly jumped on the "global warming" agenda. While the science may prove short-term effects of warming, that’s all it does. It cannot prove future catastrophes, which are being prophesized to death by green scaremongers. If it gets cold for five years will the warming have ended? No, but the environmental movement will have ended.

Also, the fused-at-the-hip connection between environmentalists and the Democrats has been a horrible idea. Democrat politicians in my area (the Hudson River Valley) are largely pro-growth, "damn the tree-huggers." Aligning with them is a lose-lose. When they are in charge they do next to nothing in this tight economy; when the Republicans are in charge they take revenge on the green agenda for having supported the Democrats. Environmentalism should be practical, non-partisan, ecumenical and dogmatically apolitical, pushing its agenda to the general public.

Pete Seeger understood that 40 years ago. He met with everyone, sang for everyone, and the Hudson River got everyone’s support and got cleaned up. And an environmental alliance with the unions: are you kidding? Did you ever talk to the "rank and file" about environmental issues? Stop picking on Bush The Bad and start pushing localized, easy-win battles. Get some momentum back and save $350,000.

Harv HilowitzKingston, NY

Thank you for your thoughtful coverage of the recent debate over the future of environmentalism. Shellenberger, Nordhaus and Adam Werbach tell us that environmentalists need to join forces with other progressives. But too few environmentalists have taken issue with this. While a compelling vision is crucial to success, the environmental vision need not be a progressive one. I argue that the failure of environmentalism to make headway on climate change is due to its increasingly anti-conservative bent.

I"m a liberal, and proud of it. But I was once a card-carrying conservative, and my shift was one of values (though not green ones). I know many environmental goals can be accomplished through liberal or conservative policies, or framed for either ideal. Take climate change. It can be accomplished through regulations, and framed as measures to prevent the rich from hurting the poor, or, it can be accomplished through fiscal reform, and marketed as measures to prevent current largesse from infringing on the rights of our children.

President Bush’s administration is anti-environmental, but Republicans need not be. If environmentalists promote political flexibility and a vision for embracing human needs, they will win favor among conservatives and propel the movement into the mainstream.

Kai M. A. Chan, Research AssociateCenter for Conservation Biology, Stanford UniversityStanford, CA

In your recent cover article "Is the Green Movement in the Dumps?" you refer to Democrats having "science on their side when it comes to global warming." The statement is more true than anything the Religious Right could claim. But the truth needs action. Science education could be the galvanizing strategy the greens are seeking toward revolutionizing the hearts of generations to come.

Currently, science carves out the smallest portion of a student’s required course load. In elementary schools, the 50 states ask teachers to barely scrape the surface of science education. Although teachers are often green supporters and have themselves developed units in river preservation or organic gardening, their efforts are often considered enrichment activities.

The sexy science courses at the high school level (only two years are required for graduation in most states) are genetics and biotech, both insidious, dollar-driven areas of study. Few schools have forestry programs or marine biology, both of which typically take students out of the schools and into the world. The environmental movement needs to support the growth of high school programs that teach green values.

More urgent than global warming is the education needed to recognize global warming. The environmental movement must mobilize to include education as a party platform.

Christina RouxWeeden Foundation Trustee Seattle, WA


As a former Democrat and now a member of the Green Party of New Jersey, I bristle at the suggestion Doug Moss makes in his E Word (May/June 2005) that greens should join the Democratic Party and try to reform it. The Democratic Party for the most part has lost the ethical and moral compass it once had and has become a Siamese twin of the Republican Party joined at the wallet. It has wimpishly supported environmental laws. It has blessed President Bush for his war on Iraq and other significant issues such as tort and bankruptcy law reform.

The Democratic party no longer has ideological consistency or vision. I don’t think the party can be reformed. In an inherently undemocratic federal electoral system, the budding and ethically consistent Green Party faces the false perceptions that they are spoilers. It’s a shame. In this hostile climate, I think the Green Party should focus locally in its strategies. From these humble beginnings, it will be able to flourish into a successful, national political party.

Mark LovettMays Landing, NJ


Your article "Keep Off The Grass" (Features, May/June 2005) omitted a very obvious alternative to conventional, chemical-heavy lawn care, which is to simply let your lawn grow as it wishes and just keep it mowed. The idea that a monoculture of grass is the ideal or even desirable is a mistake and a misuse of time and energy. As the ancient Roman poet Horace told us centuries ago, "Though you drive nature out with a pitchfork, she will still find her way back."

Tom PalmerWinter Haven, FL


Through their letters condemningNegative Population Growth"santi-illegal immigration ad in E Magazine (Advice and Dissent, July/August 2005), three of your readers have displayed their gross ignorance of the immigration issue while putting their stamp of approval on illegal immigration. And, in the process, they have mocked every immigrant who has come here legally.

How can these three "environmentalists" say they want to protect this nation’s natural beauty and resources while ignoring the damage mass immigration is doing through urban sprawl, traffic congestion and overcrowding? Does the writer who argued that immigrants come here be

cause of their need for economic opportunity know that millions of our own citizens are also among the world’s poor? What about their "search for a better life"? Where is the compassion for these fellow citizens whose jobs have been stolen by millions of illegal workers?Didn’t these citizens—years ago, before their unions were broken and employers turned to cheap foreign workers (many of them illegal)—earn good wages as meat packers, janitors, drywall installers andconstruction workers?

Here’s a news flash for the one writer who calls for birth control for the upper and middle class: Decades ago, the American people opted for smaller families. Butany gains in reducing population increase have been wiped out by a shortsighted immigration policy that benefits only greedy businesses and selfish politicians who go after the "immigrant vote" like sharks go after raw meat. Nearly two-thirds of the 94 million people added to our society since the first Earth Day in 1970is due to immigrants and the birth of their children.Speaking of Earth Day, do thesewriters knowthatits founder, the late Gaylord Nelson, advocated for far lower immigration levels as a crucial step toward stabilizing our population?

Dave Gorak, Executive Director Midwest Coalition to Reduce ImmigrationLombard, IL