Keeping Green Alive in 08

Last year was a momentous one for the environment. Green issues screamed across the headlines, as every company, every magazine cover, every state, every politician wanted to get on the green bandwagon. As someone who joined this movement in the early 1970s --back when there were only about a dozen environmental lawyers in the entire country--I found this immensely gratifying. For the first time in almost 40 years, we were mainstream news.  Now that 2008 is off and running, our challenge will be to keep that momentum going in a crowded field. It is clear that two issues will dominate this year: the election and the economy.  How can the environmental movement compete? By being a movement and more.  Political movements have enormous force--just think of the Civil Rights Movement. But the change really comes when the cause that motivates the movement goes mainstream.  That’s when it’s about welcoming people to the cause who have a personal concern about the environment--whether they want to be a part of the movement or not. You shouldn’t have to sign your name on the dotted line to join in the effort to protect the Earth.  People can join in our fight even if they are motivated by just one issue. Maybe it is a mother concerned about toxins in her baby’s bottle. Maybe it is a fly fisherman worried about his favorite rivers running too warm to sustain cold-water trout. Maybe it is Wal-Mart shopper who is persuaded to buy energy saving compact florescent light bulbs for the first time.  Perhaps none of these people view themselves as members of the environmental movement, but they all have a role to play in advocating for the safeguards that matter to them.  I have deep respect and gratitude for the people who have dedicated their lives to the movement. We have come this far thanks to leaders like Rachel Carson, Al Gore, and Bill McKibben.  But increasingly the green voice is coming from a broader spectrum of people concerned about themselves, their families, their communities. It is every-day people who are making green practices more embedded into mainstream culture. Earth friendly actions are becoming less aligned with being a card-carrying environmentalist, and that commitment will ensure that the fate of the planet remains a primary concern.