It’s all about the people, right?

On his blog, Greenway Communique, Nathan Schock advocates ecoAmerica‘s approach to connect directly to the public by building solutions that are developed based on mainstream Americans’ values and beliefs. He believes this approach will bring about real change in the movement.


Posted 7.7.2011 on Greenway Communique

by Nathan Schock


The latest report from ecoAmerica is titled “start with people.” The report states that the environmental community has not been successful at wining the hearts and minds because they have focused mostly on government regulation and intervention. The non-profit sees more success being had by those in the movement who are focused on social solutions that are built around people.


ecoAmerica wants to encourage this shift by bringing together NGOs and others for large-scale public engagement programs targeting mainstream Americans with unquestionable benefits. So far, that has been carried out through higher education initiatives like the President’s Climate Commitment and green college ratings with the Princeton Review, public outreach like Nature Rocks, along with several others listed in the report and soon will include the Center for Social Solutions on Climate.


Seems like a no-brainer. If you want PEOPLE to care about the environment, you should probably also focus on people, right?


Well, it might take a little more convincing to get the environmental community on board. The Spring issue of Nature Magazine had a cover story about Nature Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva suggested that it was time to move past the man vs. nature debate and get people to understand that nature benefits them.


When I read the article a few months ago, I thought it was a very pragmatic approach and one that could obviously have a broader appeal than trying to protect nature from man. I also wondered what the response would be from the readers.


Well, you would have thought they published an OpEd in the Catholic News suggesting the Pope convert to Protestantism. Although there were some letters in favor, they overwhelmingly castigated Kareiva, saying “people are the problem,” comparing the Nature Conservancy to Exxon and, of course, threatening to take their funds and go play somewhere else. The Nature Conservancy set up a special place on their web site to continue the debate and the comments there are even more lopsided against Kareiva. My personal favorite was this gem: Ok, let me first say that I will NOT be supporting Nature Conservancy with donations until Peter Kareiva is fired.


No, please. Tell me how you really feel.


If the environmental community wants to broaden their appeal and convince more people to join their movement, they would be wise to follow the lead of ecoAmerica and Kareiva. Instead, it appears that they’re going to act like the activist wing of a major political party that wants to crucify their candidate for moving toward the center in a presidential general election.


If you want to govern, you first have to win. For the environmental community, if they want to be successful, they’ll first have to win the public debate. They’ll have an easier time winning that debate protecting something for people rather than from them.

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