Environmentalism, as a social movement, has atrophied. At the national level in the United States, it’s become reflexively oppositional, a marginal political force, and subject (with good reason) to caricature. This is because it remains wedded to an outdated paradigm, as I’ve previously discussed here.
Despite its long history of anti-pollution advocacy, which has helped lead to cleaner air and water, environmentalism is a nature-centric movement. It is popularly associated with polar bears, old growth forests, ecology. Thus the impression, in many minds, that tree-hugging environmentalists put the concerns of wildlife and nature above those of humans. That is one of the biggest reasons why the movement’s constituency remains narrow.
So for environmentalism to really capture the hearts and minds of people, and to expand its demographic, what will it take?
More stories like this:
Park by park a patchwork of green spaces has been taking shape, the consequence of decades of grinding, grass-roots, community-driven efforts. For the environmentalists, educators, politicians, architects and landscape designers involved, the idea has not just been to revitalize a befouled waterway and create new public spaces. It has been to invest Bronx residents, for generations alienated from the water, in the beauty and upkeep of their local river.
Also, coalitions that bring disparate interests together, such as this one, will perhaps demonstrate that conservation and development need not be mutually exclusive. For the sake of the planet and the future of environmentalism, I hope so.