The “Politics of Possibility”, Part 1

I’ve slipped into the bad habit of reading online reviews of books before I read them, but thought they might provide some context for a controversial book such as “Break Through” by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger. Most of the critiques of this one were similar to comments at Ted’s talk, with a stronger focus on the authors’ negativity towards the current environmentalist movement. Which probably means the commenters, like most opinionated folks on the internets, didn’t manage to actually pay attention to the book they were reading.

It’s difficult to take book taglines seriously these days, but the one for “Break Through” is appropriately “From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility”. There is a good deal of negativity in the book, but it is manifest as frustration. The authors are quite explicitly opposed to the approaches of many facets of the environmentalist movement. In that opposition, though, they offer optimism that a more holistic movement will arise:

…so long as so many Americans are fearful, pessimistic, and insecure, America’s social values ecology is unlikely to support the kinds of changes required to deal with global warming…Creating a new progressive political consensus requires paying close attention to social values, how they are evolving, and how we might create a new social contract for postmaterial American that can provide enough security and prosperity to support a new, more ecological era. (39-40)

I have been enjoying their writing and find the arguments well supported and footnoted. I’ll write next time about some of the examples they give, avoiding absurd statistics as much as possible.


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