Environmental Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Shellenberger and Nordhaus wrote an essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” in October 2004

Environmental insiders Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus triggered a firestorm of controversy with their self-published essay “The Death of Environmentalism,” which argued that environmentalism cannot deal with global warming and should die so that a new politics can be born. Global warming is far more complex than past pollution problems, and American values have changed dramatically since the movement’s greatest victories in the 1960s, but environmentalists keep fighting the same old battles. Seeing a connection between the failures of environmentalism and the failures of the entire left-leaning political agenda, the authors point the way toward an aspirational politics that will resonate with modern American values and be capable of tackling our most pressing challenges.

Environmental insiders Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus triggered a firestorm of controversy with their self-published essay “The Death of Environmentalism,” which argued that environmentalism cannot deal with global warming and shoul

Three years after their contentious, seminal essay, "The Death of Environmentalism," advocated a radical reassessment of the global warming dilemma, career environmental activists Nordhaus and Shellenberger present the book version, which mines postmaterialist thought for solutions that fall somewhere between the death threats and Band-Aid solutions they say are currently masquerading as debate and progress. Arguing that preservation requires something "qualitatively different from limiting our contamination of nature," Nordhaus and Shellenberger contend that, as Americans, we must collectively sacrifice our standard of living to reverse the inevitable, a seemingly impossible but necessary task in a nation plagued by affluence envy and credit card debt. Referencing a wide array of current political and environmental work, the authors show how current pop environmentalism (think Al Gore's ) is mired in a "pollution paradigm... profoundly inadequate for understanding and dealing with global warming." True progress, they contend, requires embracing a pragmatic approach to the constantly changing world, rather than a stubborn belief that "all things have an essential unchanging nature," which can be protected or restored. Though their plan to sell the largest middle class in history on "a new vision of prosperity" (defining wealth by "overall well-being") seems like a long shot, their big-picture ideas are important and intensely argued, making this a convincing, resonant and hopeful primer on "postenvironmentalism." Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

few years ago when with an essay called "The Death of Environmentalism."

The essay was incendiary, and full-throated cries of rebuttal from the eco-sphere's highest realms continue to echo today. Now, a new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, fleshes out the duo's earlier critiques, giving the authors an opportunity to address critics and propose solutions. In that sense, the book reads a little like the most recent shot in an ongoing skirmish, but if The Death of Environmentalism and the volley of retaliatory essays were akin to rifle fire, then Break Through is a cannon shot, one loud enough to resonate with readers outside of professional activism and policymaking. The resultant indignation has already spilled from the boardrooms to the blogs, where critics accuse the authors of everything from advocating old-hat positions greens have already taken to acting as unwitting spokesmen for a neoconservative energy agenda.

The Death of Environmentalism: Global warming politics in a ..

In 2004, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger sparked a firestorm of controversy with their essay "The Death of Environmentalism." In it, they ...

of Environmentalism: Global warming politics in a post ..

Shellenberger and Nordhaus wrote an essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” in October 2004. The essay caused a lot of controversy among environmentalists, but the subject was important to the authors, so they expanded the subject into a book published in October of this year.

It was Oct. 6, 2004, when social researchers and environmental policy strategists Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger instigated the world's greenest catfight by distributing their essay The Death of Environmentalism at a meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association. The pamphlet charged that the environmental movement had become just another ineffective special interest, bogged down by its own myths and outdated approaches, ill-equipped to deal with climate change and other looming global eco-tastrophes.

They are drawn from “The Death of Environmentalism”, an influential essay published ..

Environmentalism or environmental rights is a ..

Nordhaus and Shellenberger contend that standard environmental tactics won't solve global warming and insist that a paradigm shift in our approach to the problem is essential. Their central point is that most environmentalists see global warming narrowly, as a pollution problem to be solved by the "politics of limits," such as using less energy and cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The writers, who have had long careers in environmental organizations, sparked great debate among the environmental community with their controversial 2004 essay, "The Death of Environmentalism," which detailed how the thou-shalt-nots of current environmental tactics are less effective than more global, market-driven solutions. Their book envisions a federal program, "a new Apollo project," to develop new energy technologies that would create new jobs and world markets. The book reads like a collection of interrelated essays; too bad the authors' vision is fleshed out only in the last chapter. But their fresh view may be reason enough to include it in any public or academic library collection.
—Michal Strutin


Happily, many people read the essay [The Death of Environmentalism] and, whether they agreed or disagreed, considered our thesis that "modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live." Our intent was, in part, to question whether the …

Three years after their contentious, seminal essay, "The Death of Environmentalism," advocated a radical reassessment of the global warming dilemma, career environmental activists Nordhaus and Shellenberger present the book version, which mines postmaterialist thought for solutions that fall somewhere between the death threats and Band-Aid solutions they say are currently masquerading as debate and progress. Arguing that preservation requires something "qualitatively different from limiting our contamination of nature," Nordhaus and Shellenberger contend that, as Americans, we must collectively sacrifice our standard of living to reverse the inevitable, a seemingly impossible but necessary task in a nation plagued by affluence envy and credit card debt. Referencing a wide array of current political and environmental work, the authors show how current pop environmentalism (think Al Gore's ) is mired in a "pollution paradigm... profoundly inadequate for understanding and dealing with global warming." True progress, they contend, requires embracing a pragmatic approach to the constantly changing world, rather than a stubborn belief that "all things have an essential unchanging nature," which can be protected or restored. Though their plan to sell the largest middle class in history on "a new vision of prosperity" (defining wealth by "overall well-being") seems like a long shot, their big-picture ideas are important and intensely argued, making this a convincing, resonant and hopeful primer on "postenvironmentalism."

David Stuart for TIME. From left: Nordhaus and Shellenberger. You don't write an essay with the title "The Death of Environmentalism" and expect to get off easy.

You don't write an essay with the title "The Death of Environmentalism" and expect to get off easy. But when Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus published their contrarian tract in 2004, even they were taken aback by the vitriol flung at them by the mainstream environmental movement. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, called the essay "shoddy," while author Bill McKibben dubbed them "the bad boys of environmentalism." For Shellenberger and Nordhaus — two San Francisco Bay Area veterans of the green movement who now run an environmental think tank — the message was clear: You'll never eat locavore in this own again.