Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Breakthrough, Part 3

In what was surely a calculated provocation to right-thinking liberals, N&S contrast the environmental movement--unfavorably--to Rick-Warren-style Christian evangelicals (another link to Obama--coincidence? I think not).

Throughout this book we have criticized the ways in which environmentalists treat nature and science as a religion, which we believe lies behind environmentalism's ideological orthodoxies--its pollution paradigm, its politics of limits, and its policy literalism--and which prevents environmentalists from achieving their goals. But here [in a chapter called "Belonging and Fulfillment"] we consider the ways in which environmentalism doesn't work enough as a church. ... Outside of giving money and buying green products, few among even the most serious environmentalists ever actually do anything to manifest their environmentalist identities or to recruit others to join them. In short, while the evangelical identity is thick, the environmentalist identity is thin.
To the extent that environmentalists have meetings at all, they are more depressing than inspiring, focused more on stopping development than creating a beloved community (203)
Again, you've got to admire the shrewdness of this rhetorical gambit: too much religion, not enough church. Or better--since the chapter is a version of what Bill Clinton once called a "politics of meaning," and turns on a discussion of Robert Putnam's ideas about social capital and Richard Florida's notions of the creative class--it's an invitation to imagine environmentalism as community-building, as constructive and meaningful. It is, in some ways, what the folks at Orion have been trying to do for years--only, perhaps, too solemnly. Or maybe it's just another way of proclaiming the power of networking.

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