Making the most of this historic moment

The green movement is ready to come back home

Jay Walljasper| July/Aug 2006 issue
A new surge of environmental concern sweeps the world every 18 years, almost like a natural cycle.
The whole idea of ecology took root in 1970 with the first Earth Day, which sparked a burst of successful projects to clean the air and water. By the late 1980s, however, the global environmental movement had stalled. Then suddenly in 1988 it seemed to pick up momentum again. The word “sustainability” was on everyone’s tongue, thanks to the UN’s Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future published the previous year. Nineteen eighty-eight also saw scorching hot summer weather across many parts of the world, prompting the first serious discussions about global warming. The green bandwagon was so popular that George Bush (the father) won election in the U.S. that year with promises of becoming “the environmental president.”
Now, 18 years later, signs of another green wave are all around us. Virtually everyone outside George Bush (the son) understands that dramatic global climate change is an urgent problem needing attention right now. No less a source than Vanity Fair magazine, which does a brilliant job of keeping up with what’s fashionable, recently sounded “the call for a New American Revolution” in its special green issue. It seems hard to believe just 18 months ago a widely discussed report from two young activists was setting off alarm bells about “the death of environmentalism.”
This is a historic opportunity for human advancement—not simply to improve the environment but to launch new initiatives on energy innovation, global poverty, urban livability and other interconnected issues. But this time around we can’t settle for a spurt of earthy idealism that soon recedes, leaving us waiting until 2024, when the next green tide rolls in. Let’s aim for a permanent reordering of priorities and practises in government, business and everyday life.
To accomplish that, however, greens first must think carefully about how they communicate with the great majority of people who are concerned about the fate of the Earth but don’t generally think of themselves as environmentalists. This rethinking should begin with the phrase “environment” itself. As Jonathan Porritt, a leading English environmentalist and founder of Green Futures magazine, argues, “Most people think that the environment is everything that happens outside our lives. We’re here and the natural world is over there. Yet this is a huge philosophical error creating a false divide between us and the physical world. We need to … view our world as being us in the environment, not us and the environment. And the only way we can do this is to acknowledge that the environment is rooted in our sense of place: our homes, our streets, our neighbourhoods, our communities.”
People are naturally devoted to the places they live. The “environment” is an abstraction that will never rouse the same emotions and action as talking about the local park, a farm or woodland just outside town, a favourite vacation spot—which are threatened every bit as much as rainforests and coral reefs.
The environmental movement today appears ready to come back home. It can show the same concern about preserving green places in our communities as it does about preserving wetlands. It can help kids safely roam the streets of their neighbourhoods as well as helping endangered species safely roam the wilds. This is how we make sure that the current green wave adds up to more than another short-lived flurry of headlines.

Solution News Source

Making the most of this historic moment

The green movement is ready to come back home

Jay Walljasper| July/Aug 2006 issue
A new surge of environmental concern sweeps the world every 18 years, almost like a natural cycle.
The whole idea of ecology took root in 1970 with the first Earth Day, which sparked a burst of successful projects to clean the air and water. By the late 1980s, however, the global environmental movement had stalled. Then suddenly in 1988 it seemed to pick up momentum again. The word “sustainability” was on everyone’s tongue, thanks to the UN’s Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future published the previous year. Nineteen eighty-eight also saw scorching hot summer weather across many parts of the world, prompting the first serious discussions about global warming. The green bandwagon was so popular that George Bush (the father) won election in the U.S. that year with promises of becoming “the environmental president.”
Now, 18 years later, signs of another green wave are all around us. Virtually everyone outside George Bush (the son) understands that dramatic global climate change is an urgent problem needing attention right now. No less a source than Vanity Fair magazine, which does a brilliant job of keeping up with what’s fashionable, recently sounded “the call for a New American Revolution” in its special green issue. It seems hard to believe just 18 months ago a widely discussed report from two young activists was setting off alarm bells about “the death of environmentalism.”
This is a historic opportunity for human advancement—not simply to improve the environment but to launch new initiatives on energy innovation, global poverty, urban livability and other interconnected issues. But this time around we can’t settle for a spurt of earthy idealism that soon recedes, leaving us waiting until 2024, when the next green tide rolls in. Let’s aim for a permanent reordering of priorities and practises in government, business and everyday life.
To accomplish that, however, greens first must think carefully about how they communicate with the great majority of people who are concerned about the fate of the Earth but don’t generally think of themselves as environmentalists. This rethinking should begin with the phrase “environment” itself. As Jonathan Porritt, a leading English environmentalist and founder of Green Futures magazine, argues, “Most people think that the environment is everything that happens outside our lives. We’re here and the natural world is over there. Yet this is a huge philosophical error creating a false divide between us and the physical world. We need to … view our world as being us in the environment, not us and the environment. And the only way we can do this is to acknowledge that the environment is rooted in our sense of place: our homes, our streets, our neighbourhoods, our communities.”
People are naturally devoted to the places they live. The “environment” is an abstraction that will never rouse the same emotions and action as talking about the local park, a farm or woodland just outside town, a favourite vacation spot—which are threatened every bit as much as rainforests and coral reefs.
The environmental movement today appears ready to come back home. It can show the same concern about preserving green places in our communities as it does about preserving wetlands. It can help kids safely roam the streets of their neighbourhoods as well as helping endangered species safely roam the wilds. This is how we make sure that the current green wave adds up to more than another short-lived flurry of headlines.

Solution News Source

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