Invest in Earth and the green life

Let’s use Earth Day to celebrate the revitalized direction of environmentalism.

Much has changed since the first Earth Day, 36 years ago. We’ve come a long way since DDT use, the love canal and leaded gasoline. On the first Earth Day an estimated 20 million people turned out in grassroots support. This support gave momentum to landmark environmental legislation such as the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. People now understand the value of the environment for recreation, economic and public-health. Today, there are hundreds of organizations and agencies dedicated to environmental health and protection.

Partially inspired by the 2004 article “The Death of Environmentalism” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, there is a growing group of critics rallying behind the mantra “environmentalism is dead”. Using the article as a catalyst for new ways of thinking, the environmental movement is redirecting its focus in a world dominated by issues that cover much wider interests. Issues such as energy, water resources and resource management are more than simply environmental issues.

National security, economic development and social justice issues all come into play when considering traditional environmental problems. Instead of prevailing stereotypes of hippies, tree huggers and radical extremists, a new generation is redefining what it means to be an environmentalist. Using the ideas of free market environmentalism, ecotourism, and sustainable economic development, many people are applying these tools and ideas to reach the same goals environmentalism always has had, but in more productive and equitable ways. Reflecting on this idea of expanding environmentalism into the 21st century, Van Jones of the Apollo Alliance said, “The first wave of environmentalism was framed around conservation and the second wave around regulation. We believe the third wave will be framed around investment.”

Far from being dead, environmentalism is being redefined by the expansion of these issues to include a greater diversity of interests at the table. Rather than saving the world for the planet’s sake, there are now a multitude of reasons to invest in the environment. Earth Day is Saturday and commemorates the progress that has been made and reminds us of the work still to be done. Let’s use this day to celebrate the revitalized direction of environmentalism.

Holly Lahd is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected].