I’m not a morning person. But a couple weeks ago, at 7:30 am, all of my intellectual neurons were firing early when I went to hear Michael Shellenberger give a talk entitled “Are We Dead Yet?â€?
Michael, along with his colleague Ted Nordhaus, rocked the environmental movement when they published their controversial essay “The Death Of Environmentalism.â€? In it they posited that the modern day environmental movement has become a relic and a failure, incapable of dealing with the magnitude of the world’s most serious ecological issues.
I found his ideas to be thoughtfully provocative. For instance, take his idea that ecological concern is a post-material value and therefore economic development is a prerequisite for ecological protection. That thought alone could presumably alter a lot of environmental strategy, particularly in the context of thinking about things like global warming or wilderness protection, and especially given the rapid emergence of economies like those in China and India.
He also talked about the fact that today’s predominate environmental narrative is largely based on constraint, which is not necessarily a great idea if you’re trying to steward significant change within the consciousness of the modern American psyche. Instead, he advocated that we create a new narrative that is based on a sense of possibility and inventiveness. His view was that we should clarify our highest aspirations, put them at the center of our thinking, and develop a political strategy that is rooted in fulfillment, aspiration and overcoming. Michael’s thinking definitely challenges conventional paradigms. In that sense, he embodies the spirit of The Breakthrough Institute, the organization he and Ted recently founded.