Environmentalism as a Cultural Phenomenon

I’m always impressed (and not in a good way) that the environmentalism I walked into is an overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly upper-class, overwhelmingly psycho crowd. I’m also excited that this seems to be changing as the pragmatic, chic and money-saving aspects of environmentalism come to light. Normal people are jumping on board!

EcoTopia traces the environmental movement from Henry David Thoreau (1845) through John Muir to Julia Butterfly Hill (2005). It’s kind of an awkward birthing for a movement: the Sierra Club, Green Peace, the Green Party, WWF, ecoterrorists…

Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank bemoan the place of corporations in this new green movement while encouraging eco-activists to work alongside the working class for real change. An interesting piece, a definite counterpoint to my own views, co-written by the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me (St. Clair) – which is not, unfortunately, about race and the environmental movement, but about how politicians ruin things.

Robert Gottlieb writes Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement and in true green fashion, it is posted in its entirety on Google Books. “In January 1990,” Gottlieb writes, activists from the Gulf Coast Tenant Leadership Development Project sent a letter asserting “that the ‘racism and the “whiteness” of the environmental movement” had become its ‘Achilles’ heel.'”

And find a very interesting piece from grist.org on the environment and poverty.

There’s even a course at Drexel called Civil Society and the Environment: The Mobilization of the U.S. Environmental Movement, 1900- 2000. I want to take it!

Finally, Michael Specter writes in the upcoming Feb. 25 New Yorker about the problematic tendency to moralize environmental issues.


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