While it may seem counter intuitive, the environmental movement has for decades excluded conservative audiences from having a place within the environmentalist movement. This division stands as a barrier between coming to a collective form of action on climate change as has been done in other countries.
If you don’t think I am right consider what type of person comes to mind when you hear the term environmentalist?
If you’re like most people you probably imagined some barefooted hippie chaining themselves to a tree or perhaps you imagined the hundreds of protesters at this year’s people’s climate march.
What about a conservative couple coming from the Midwest that shops locally and has reused the same coffee mug for over 30 years? Would you consider them as environmentalists?
Do you think that they even view themselves as environmentalists?
While the environmentalist movement has had a voice since the 1850’s, most large non-profits such as green peace and The Friends of The Earth who first became active in the 1970’s, have justifiably claimed the phrases of sustainability and environmentalism as a result of the major strides they have made for our planets ecosystems in the form of political campaigns such as the endangered species act, the clean water act and the clean air act.
However, the actions taken by these environmental movements have profoundly damaged the US coming together on a solution to climate change. By turning sustainability into a partisan issue and driving a wedge between right leaning individuals, pushing away those who may side with the environmental movement.
Furthermore, this wedge has been made more prominent with the media’s coverage of the environmental issues on both sides of the political spectrum.
Conservative media, outlets like FOX news, paints issues of sustainability as “blown out of proportion” or “made up completely” while environmentalists (including scientists) have become characterized as enemies to the US economy, pursuing their own selfish agendas under the blanket of climate change.
Progressive media sources play into this divide as well by typifying environmentalists into their very own niche that very self-proclaimed environmentalists may not even fall into. Time after time the media will cover stories of the brave water protectors at Standing Rock or the Peoples Climate march in DC, but what about the large upsurge of past Texan or Iowan farmers converting their old farms into wind farms?
Don’t you think Texas, being the number 1 wind producer in the United States would be worthy of a little air time?
The media always goes after the juiciest of stories, and neglects the everyday American climate warriors organizing locally, running for office or even just recycling and biking to work. I realize that a news station that covered the mundane of everyday life would never make ratings, but environmentalists must take steps to mitigate its divisive affects to the public.
Environmentalism in the US can only go so far under the political gridlock between republicans and democrats. The future game plan for environmentalists should not to be to further polarize the issue one way or another, rather their focus should be on normalizing sustainability within the US, especially on stories that highlight the most conservative of climate warriors. People from the far right are much more likely to listen to someone who talks and acts like them as opposed to someone from the ultra-left with a vocabulary so different they might as well be from another country.
Changing people’s minds is not impossible to do, but it becomes impossible when we refuse to meet people half way. It’s time for the climate movement to challenge itself to be more open and accommodating to people from all beliefs and backgrounds, conservative white males included.