Tuesday, October 02, 2007

March of the environmentalists

Great things happening in New York, where environmentalists find themselves (once again, thankfully) at the helm of the apparatus of the state.

So now we can expect progress in curbing toxics, protection of natural places, etc., right? Well maybe. It seems that Governor Sptizer's adminisration cautions the enviros turned agency leaders that they must become pragmatists to work in their apppointed roles.

This model is tired. It's so tired that it won't even work where it's working. Governor Spitzer, a tough-minded prosecutor scared of nothing, won't even unleash enviros to exercise their will in Blue state New York.

What is the model? It's the Great Technocratic Hope that flourished in the 1970s, when even Richard Nixon was an environmentalist. It's expecting policy and regulatory environmental solutions from the hand of government. We can only win using this model when we have the full support of the American public.

We can't lead with legislation, regulation, and legal victories. If we use these tools to take people where they don't want to go, then the victories will be undone. We need to lead with public opinion, and the other stuff will follow. In fact, if we lead with public opinion, then the other stuff will follow fast and furious.

The same holds true for getting businesses to promote sustainability. There are limits to how far we can get with even economic giants on our side, if we lack public support.

We enviros need to do better at showing people how we're building a better future that includes them. Otherwise, we face a dire future of heroic struggles for very limited gains. Ask the greenies leading the state government in New York.

Or ask the state agencies under California Governor Shwarzenegger, our new age green hero on at least some issues...and the champion of a brown future on other things like toxics.

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