SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- As the world marked the 35th anniversary of Earth Day on Friday, environmentalists debated the future of a movement that seems to be losing steam. President Bush's re-election, the failure to slow global warming and the large number of Americans who dismiss environmentalists as tree-hugging extremists has the movement's leaders looking for new approaches. And while polls show most Americans want clean air, clean water and wildlife protection, environmental issues rank low on their list of priorities -- behind jobs, health care, education and national security.
And how do they explain this marginalization of their movement. Some would simply call it a "paradox," and indeed some do.
"There's this paradox where Americans hold these views, but when it comes time to take action, there are many, many issues that trump environmental concerns," said Peter Teague, environmental programs director at the Nathan Cummings Foundation.Face it guys, there are more important things than the government regulations you are pushing.
Some take comfort in the idea that it's just a "message problem -- that environmental groups simply need to improve their communication with the voting public."
To win public support, leaders say they are trying to present the problems and potential solutions in language that connects to people's lives.Others see dark forces at work:
"We haven't done a good job communicating about the solutions," said Carl Pope, who heads the conservation-minded Sierra Club.
George Lakoff, a University of California, Berkeley linguistics professor... argues that the entire public agenda has been seized by what he calls a "right-wing ideological political movement that's extremely powerful and well funded."Of course what else would you expect from a Berkeley linguistics professor?
Read the whole thing here.
Nowhere in all of this is a sense that these people understand that the problem might possibly be with their message and values. Until they begin to question those, they will continue to drift farther and farther from the mainstream of society, finding bleak comfort in their paranoid delusions of vast right wing conspiracies, and nostalgia for the salad days of their youth.
The Bush administration, building upon initiatives by his two predecessors in office, has made a good start toward instituting a sane and reasonable approach to environmental issues, but that's not good enough for these folk. They're just plain pathetic, and that's not a good thing. We do need reasoned discourse on the environment, but we will not find it issuing from this crowd.