News of environmentalism’s death is premature
July 14, 2005
News flash: Environmentalism is not dead.It’s become trendy lately to announce, or at least to imply, that it’s no longer hip to be green. The very suggestion that “environmentalism is dead” has been met with a combination of hand-wringing, angry denial and soul-searching. The fact is that the phrase is simply a slogan designed to capture attention and get people talking; there’s just enough truth to it that people’s ears prick up when they hear it.Environmentalism is only dead in the sense that it’s shedding an old skin and growing a new one. Sadly, the environmental movement has grown as monolithic as many of its perceived enemies – big oil, big timber, industrial polluters – and is regrouping.But “dead”? Give us a break.Consider a few examples:On June 26, the Aspen Times Weekly ran a cover story featuring a number of energy-efficient homes either under construction or recently completed in the Roaring Fork Valley. Each of these homes is an example of environmentalism at work – homeowners taking personal responsibility for their impact on the planet, using recycled, earth-friendly materials, conserving power and otherwise doing their part to protect our water, air and other shared resources.On July 14 in The Aspen Times daily edition, readers learned about a Ford F-350 pickup that, instead of guzzling gasoline, runs on used cooking oil. Holland and Luna Duell have converted their truck to burn the same liquid used to cook french fries, egg rolls and chimichangas. Pause a moment to imagine the social, political and environmental impact that such technology could have if adopted on a broad scale.Then there’s the city of Aspen’s Canary Initiative, an effort to reduce the city’s contribution to global warming and to raise awareness about the threat of climate change. This is a logical initiative for a ski town, but beyond that it’s an example of a government taking the lead on a perceived problem and setting an example for others to follow. We have our questions about the wisdom of creating a new position at City Hall to run the Canary Initiative, but we firmly support the notion of the city backing up rhetoric with action and doing its part, however small, to avert a global catastrophe.These are fine examples of grassroots environmentalism, and they show that the movement, instead of dying or atrophying, is getting back to its founding principles. Instead of merely writing a check so that your favorite green organization can hire D.C. lobbyists and fund giant direct-mail doomsday campaigns, Americans are moving to a do-it-yourself environmentalism that involves less talk, less administration and more direct, personal, real-life action.Environmentalism isn’t dead. It’s just refocused on practice over preaching.