September 29th, 2010

Let’s Build a Movement… But Which One?


Back in January, Chris wrote a post on the difference in framing between “greentech,” “cleantech”, and “enertech”.  In reference to Bob Metcalfe’s preferred “enertech”, Chris writes:

Metcalfe’s perspective is interesting but I think it misses the point, “green” and “clean” are more than just about energy.  It’s about food, building materials, toxins, yadda yadda yadda.”

I was reminded of that when I read this post by David Roberts of Grist, arguing that “environmentalism”, as a movement, just isn’t equipped to deal with climate change.  Writes Roberts,

“A clear understanding of that challenge renders comically absurd the notion that it can or should be the province of a niche progressive interest group. It’s just too big for that.”

I certainly agree that climate change cannot be addressed by enviromentalists alone.  But do we need a distinct “climate movement”?  This question is to politics what Chris’s post is to our sector.  Yet, while Roberts’ argument seems compelling, Chris hits on the basic problem: framing a movement or an industry as specific to climate/energy is limiting if you’re also interested in food, building materials, etc.

My intitial inclination is to agree with Roberts.  Climate change certainly seems distinct in its scale and significance, requiring a movement well beyond that of most environmental issues.  And yet just when I think my mind is made up, I think about the next big challenge: water.  Do we really want to frame a movement or an industry around climate/energy and risk not being able to apply its energies to upcoming challenges like water issues?  I’m not sure.  Is turning Americans into climate advocates even any easier than turning them into environmentalists?  Again, I’m not sure.

And what about sustainability?  Is a “sustainability” movement required? In what ways is sustainability distinct from environmentalism?  Politically, how does sustainability relate to climate?  To be clear: mitigating climate change is central to a sustainable future, and questions of sustainability surround various mitigation techniques.  I’m interested in how the two are related as potential political movements.

I suppose in the end it comes down to whether you think climate change represents a not only unprecedented, but truly unique challenge, or whether you see it as just the first in a string of equally serious issues of sustainability.  As for myself, I’m still not sure.

Yet, rather than wait until my mind was made up to write the post, I figured I’d raise the issue and see what others thought.  Do we need a “climate movement”?  And should it be distinct from environmentalism? From sustainability?

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Walter Frick

About Walter Frick

Walter Frick works for the New England Clean Energy Council, managing the Council’s communications, web presence, and student outreach. Prior to joining the Council, Walter worked for the U.S. Green Building Council, creator of the LEED rating system, in D.C., where he focused on membership recruitment. Before that he worked in Richmond for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. In addition to clean energy, Walter is interested in public policy, information and media, and how the web is changing our relationships with each. He is a graduate of Colgate University. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wfrick

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Let's Build A Movement...But Which One?... --

  • Chris Williams


    Its an interesting point that came up at kingpins a couple weeks back. It’s almost as if green is too large of subject, so its difficult to unit everyone under one single cause, something the NRA has always been good at. Perhaps all the political issues comes from this as well, without a unite front, its hard to determine what we will or will not comprise on.

    How can we unite all green people?