Eco: Death of Environmentalism exaggerated
“We have become convinced that modern environmentalism, with all of its…outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live,” write pollsters Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. (New York Times, February 6, 2005).
Similar to the way “ecological release” enables new forms of life to prosper from the extinction of the more primitive, their recent paper, “The Death of Environmentalism,” amounts to a call for the “political release” of environmental activism.
It’s a message that can be hard to hear, particularly among those who have given so much to conservation causes. Others see the value of retrospection. Adam Werbach, a former Sierra Club national president, has opened speeches by telling audiences, “I’m here to perform an autopsy.”
One would hope that before an autopsy is required every effort would be made to see what is ailing the patient. If the environmental movement has lost its way—and it’s hard to describe current declines in biodiversity as anything but a dismal failure—it has done so by walking away from its roots, or rather its grassroots.
In Connecticut, more and more municipalities are struggling to manage issues surrounding the pace of development, wetland protections, open space preservation, and more. Too often, administrators feel outmatched and isolated, when in fact there is a great deal of valuable information, and public resources available to assist them.
The real, immediate problem we face is organizing at the local level to assist people to make the ordinary, day-to-day decisions that could lead to real change, and improve our quality of life in the future.
Two who are in the trenches everyday, working with Connecticut towns and their administrators to empower them to represent communities’ interests, are Dr. Michael Klemens of the Metropolitan Conservation Alliance (MCA) of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Roman Mrozinski, Executive Director of the Southwest Conservation District.
Klemens ideas are straightforward and powerful, and in some cases even promise to save money. He advocates that towns make time to imagine the places they want to become in the future, plan accordingly, and pass local regulations that will enable them to negotiate successfully with large developers and their legal teams, who have the know-how to leverage every angle.
Mrozinski works with organizations such as MCA and the Connecticut DEP to organize workshops to train town administrators in planning techniques, and regularly drives throughout his district to assist in key environmental issues.
Together, they are promoting a vision for community planning that can support development and protect biodiversity at the local level. It’s exactly the sort of new thinking that needs to see the light of day.