Green Life Support

Our cover story this issue was inspired by a paper that began circulating in environmental circles back in September entitled "The Death Of Environmentalism?" It laments the increasing lack of public, political and media attention to environmental issues, especially at a time when some very crucial ones, like global warming, need urgent action.

"Death" has been both praised and attacked by green leaders of all stripes, and has even gotten some mainstream media play. It has forced some useful introspection. Ben Franklin once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." I’d like to offer my own thoughts here on thinking outside the green box:

Media Reform. In their book Banana Republicans, authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber call modern media a "fourth branch of government." That’s a pretty astute observation, I think, what with "embedded" reporters in Iraq shielding us from the real deal, planted questioners at Bush press conferences and an overall pattern of "keeping up with the Foxes" among networks. We’re now learning that some "journalists" are being paid to promote administration viewpoints and that the feds have been feeding the networks their own "news" segments, complete with fake correspondents. "Death" posits that we shouldn’t blame everything on media, that the problem instead lies in our inability to articulate a resonating vision. But as long as the media remain hell bent on discrediting any "liberal" view, no amount of spin is going to help. Remember when there was a "Fairness Doctrine" mandating balanced media coverage? We need to take that back and more, including creating media—ideally nonprofit media, with private foundation backing—that will balance the right’s juggernaut. As fun as Air America, Real Time with Bill Maher and The Daily Show are, these peanut galleries are not enough!

Electoral Reform. From the outright cheating and badly formatted debates, to the entire financial and political structure that makes for a wholly uneven playing field for candidates and voters alike, our electoral process is an embarrassment to a nation that calls itself the "Greatest Democracy on Earth." We did much in the last election to get out the vote, but what we need most—through coalitions with labor, women’s and civil rights groups and others who also lost big last November 2—is to push for profound reform of the electoral process itself, to get big money out and remove the barriers that purposely disenfranchise likely liberal voters.

Democratic Party Reform. If it’s not Ralph Nader it’s going to be someone else who comes along and spoils it. Third-party candidates always ruin it not for the opposition but for the party most closely aligned to it on the issues. So you Naderites, Greens and others in the liberal spectrum who might be inclined to join a third party: It’s not working! Instead, join the Democratic Party and participate in the noisy revolution that needs to take place inside this wimpy organization that, despite its fundamental good, has become a follower instead of a leader. The best way to stop the Democrats from behaving like Republicans is to become those Democrats ourselves. This may bring turmoil and cost some elections in the near term but—along with pushing for serious electoral and media reform—I see no other winning strategy for the long term.