Two years ago, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger wrote a provocative paper entitled The Death of Environmentalism in which they argued that to meet current challenges, environmentalists need to develop “a set of proposals that simultaneously energize ‘our’ base, win over new allies, divide our opponents, achieve policy victories and make America’s values more progressive.”
What does that really mean?
I believe it means that environmentalists should engage in a culture war and opt for socialism.
By definition, progressivism means interventionist economics such as taxing the wealthy more than the poor, opposing the influence of corporations, being skeptical of government because it is not controlling more of our economy and advocating governmental reformation to expand wealth transfer. In practice, Associate Professor and self-proclaimed socialist, Greg Albo, endorses an environmental progressivism that includes:
Work time reduction and increased leisure time; massive expansion of collective services such as daycare, education, parks, museums, and other recreation facilities; increased funding of the “grant economy” for cultural workers, community festivals, and the like; a mass shift to public transportation funded by long-term (50-year) bond floats; major income redistribution given the huge class differences in causing environmental degradation; increased worker input into the health and ecological conditions of labor processes; expansion of the cooperative and worker-controlled enterprise sector as a basis for building alternative local communities; debt relief for the global south; mass transfer of sustainable technologies; sharply limited growth in the north to provide room for growth in less developed zones and to diminish inequality; and so forth.
More simply, as Gus Speth, former dean of the Yale Forestry School, puts it, “[environmentalists need to] challenge the power of corporations and question the nation’s commitment to perpetual economic growth.” He suggests: “The solution is to figure what needs to be done to change today’s capitalism.”
In sum, progressive environmentalism of the sort advocated by Nordhaus and Shellenberger would be to link environmental goals to all the other progressive social goals and sell this utopian vision and values. (It includes a one-world order, as needed to deal with global warming.) They want environmentalists to man the barricades and militate for a political overthrow of existing political systems, or at least what they think of as the entrenched political powers.
Let’s bring this down to earth, so to speak. How would this “progressivism” apply to the Chesapeake Bay? Long-time advocate for the Bay, Howard Ernst, has taken up the progressive call. He wants to see William C. Baker, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s long-standing and remarkably able chief executive, resign. He wants a “dark green” approach (read bright pink). Light green vs. dark green, Ernst says, is about voluntary vs. mandatory, about “caring” vs. confrontation, about acting “responsibly” vs. demanding clean water, just as the Civil Rights movement demanded equality.
The progressives are supposed to care about the economy and jobs. Yet they take no steps to recognize the opportunity costs of regulations that fail to honor the need for economic growth. They believe in using the power of the economy to shift to “green” energy, but they want to do so by picking winners and subsidizing their favorite energy alternatives; rather than opening up new energy resources and intellectual endeavor, and letting the market place pick the winners. They believe centralized governmental regulatory controls work better than old fashioned stewardship.
To solve the problems of the Bay, we need stewardship, which can include regulation. But let’s remember what the goals of old fashioned stewardship are: (1) to ensure the estate, Virginia citizens and businesses, has sufficient revenue to meet their needs (think of jobs and being profitable); and, (2) to ensure the estate’s assets grow (think better educated and more productive citizens and husbanding of natural, agricultural, commercial, industrial and productive resources).
We don’t need pink politics to create a green economy. We can grow Virginia’s economy, in part, by increasing the productive capacity of the Bay and its ecology. Think of it this way, the new green is a healthy blue.