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The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement

“Green traditionalists . . . publish high-profile papers warning ‘that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth’ to an irreversible tipping point. . . . The common thread: . . . Humans are planet wreckers. Time is running out for us. The modernist greens, by contrast, don’t catastrophize. They are even optimistic about the future.”

by Keith Kloor

Prince William Sound blueIn 2005, two renegade greens tried to kill off environmentalism in broad daylight. The environmental movement, they said in a provocative essay, had grown stale and ineffectual. It was beholden to a wooly-headed, tree-hugging worldview that was as dated as lava lamps, bellbottoms and Billy Jack. This save-the-Earth brand of environmentalism, which has long idealized wilderness (as true nature) while simultaneously designating humanity as the scourge of the planet, “must die so that something new can live,” Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger wrote in “The Death of Environmentalism” (PDF).

Their critique landed like a thunderclap in green circles. Some environmentalists welcomed the jolt. But Sierra Club Executive President Carl Pope, channeling the reaction of many establishment green leaders, was dismissive: “I am deeply disappointed and angered by it,” he wrote in a long retort. Continue reading


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