Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Environmentalism" is Dead

NPR's coverage of a recent PEW Research poll reaffirms an interesting trend in American life: The environmental movement is dead. While 44 percent of our grandparents generation self-identified as environmentalists, only 32 percent of Millennials today

Part of the issue is semantics. "Environmentalist" is just no longer a cool word, so Millenials, ever aware of the perceptions of others, just don't use it. My suspicion would be that the term will likely never return to its near 50% threshold that it enjoys with the generation that invented it.

But the death of "environmentalism" doesn't necessarily spell doom for the planet. It's not that kids these days don't care about the environment. Quite the opposite. Instead, I think it's that Millenials just don't like labels in general. "Environmentalist" is an adjective.

If PEW Research were to take a similar poll across generational groups around support for "sustainability," "climate action," "recycling," "clean energy innovation," and "environmental markets," and "ecosystem preservation," I think they would see that our generation is just as "environmentalist" as our parents and grandparents if not more so.

Indeed, from the ashes of "environmentalists," has risen a plethora of successor movements. A menagerie of conservationists, climate activists, locavores, sustainable foodies, green consumers, and green investors.

So don't fear for mother nature. The decline of environmentalism doesn't represent the decline of environmental progress. Instead, we making a healthy transition away form a focus on adjectives, and toward a focus on verbs. Actions are more important than labels anyway, so it's a shift I think can only be good for the movement and the planet.

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