To say that these are dispiriting times for the environmental movement is quite the understatement. Between “Climategate,” the constant harassment by the climate change deniers, marginalization by the government, reversal of past successes, and several other factors, many people have just given up. And rightly so, part of me thinks. To continue seems to be a lesson in futility.
However, as reality becomes less ignorable by more and more people, they are going to be looking for leadership, and this is an area where the environmental movement can distinguish itself. Being proven right is a great framework for building continued success, and this is only assisted by the fact that the climate change deniers are beginning to look more and more idiotic every day.
So, what are some strategies for doing this? One is to stop wasting resources trying to convince people who manifestly refuse to be convinced. There is enough evidence out there now, both scientific and experiential, to make the case to those who live in an evidence-based reality. Those who continue to deny the evidence either have strong financial incentives to do so, or just don’t want to hear it. These people will never be won over, so stop trying.
However, people in positions to effect change do continue to need hard evidence to help push through policies to both mitigate future climate change, and prepare for the change already programmed into the system. Thus, continued work on improving climate modeling and understanding of the modes of climate change should continue. Also, climate deniers have been working to reduce funding for these efforts so as to disable the ability to acquire evidence against them. This is an area where the environmental movement needs to step up and demonstrate leadership to prevent this from happening.
A second, parallel strategy is to help prepare the population for the coming changes. The environmental movement can demonstrate leadership here by determining and proposing policies to help mitigate the effects of population migration (climate refugees), reduced food and fresh water supplies, increasingly non-functional and erratic infrastructure, and other by-products of climate change which are going to force the adoption of different way of life. Indeed, I believe there is much work to be done to determine just what “a different way of life” means.
Finally, a strategy needs to be established to regroup and reinvigorate the environmental movement, possibly along the lines of pursuing the previous two strategies. The climate deniers may have won the first round, but not the war. Indeed, it seems to me to be a pyrrhic victory at best, as climate change becomes increasingly costly and foolhardy to deny. At some point, acceptance of climate change will undergo a critical mass event (if not already), and humanity will be better served if the environmental movement can lead it to a sustainable living arrangement, than to allow the wanton destruction that has defined much of human history when similar events have occurred.
The future is on the side of the environmental movement. It just needs to be prepared to lead us there.