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Movements: Lessons From Earth Day 1970

image from www.newyorker.comLet's begin by stipulating that any comparisons between the environmental movement and the current school reform movements are ridiculous in the extreme. The environment and public education are totally different, and the issues, histories, and evolution of the movements to improve them are far-fetched, not worth your time. 

Then, let's talk about Nick Lemann's latest New Yorker article, What Happened to the Environmental Movement? 

Loosely built around a review of a recent book and several reports about the history of the environmental movement, the gist of Lemann's piece is that the environmental movement had its biggest successes (Earth Day, the Clean Water Act, etc.) long ago in the 1970s when it was still highly decentralized and community-specific.  

Lemann describes that period as "educational, school-based, widely distributed, locally controlled, and mass-participatory."

The movement's worst failures (most notably 2010's cap and trade debacle) take place when the movement has gone mainstream, according to Lemann:  "Even as the environmental movement has become an established presence in Washington, it has become less able to win legislative victories."

There's been lots of direct mail and social media outreach, too, of course -- but the enviro groups of today treat the public as a kind of background chorus rather than as real leaders, and thus lacks the "ability to generate thousands of events that people actually attend—the kind of activity that creates pressure on legislators."  

There's lots more -- Theda Skocpol, the issue of federated structures and concrete individual benefits vs. broad based social goods. Image via New Yorker. 


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I really enjoyed this article. I'm an eco-friendly person myself and I believe that people should be more involved.What really happened to the people that care?! This is an important issue in my standing because this can actually be of aid. Too bad some others don't see it.

I am not very environmentally aware person. I am striving to do better. To be a more eco-friendly person. Therefor, I read and do research on how to help add value to my environment.I love articles like this one that adds light to current issues.

earth day the best day why wouldnt you give back to mothernature she give us everything we ever wanted fruit,wind and everything why not go green and beatiful

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