Hat tip Trolling in Shallow Water entry G. Tracy Mehan III comments on the “death of environmentalism” at National Review Online. This, in turn, references Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

The idea is that more and more people are thinking that environmentalists are extremists. This may be due to all of the stories about doom and gloom that do not fit what is readily visible to anyone who looks at the world around them. It may also be the result of being ‘against’ perceived enemies rather than ‘for’ a cause or set of principles. And then there is the growth and change problem in environmentalist groups.

One of Van Putten’s more interesting insights pertains to environmentalism’s abandonment of the volunteerism that was typical of both its early days and the original conservation movement as embodied in the Boone and Crockett Clubs promoted by Theodore Roosevelt for fishermen and hunters. Today, national environmental groups, tethered to Washington and New York, have become professionalized and increasingly focused on legislative and regulatory esoterica that do not resonate with many Americans skeptical of big government and command-and-control strategies.[Tracy]

The change from volunteers to professionals moves motivation as well as skill sets. The driving force changes character. The goals and objectives become different. The reason for existence becomes confused.

This suggests that we are witnessing one of most common modes of government failure, capture of the process. This is likely to occur whenever activists stir up enough concern about a perceived problem to establish a new government institution to “solve” the problem. The skills required to be an activist are quite different from the skills required to survive in a government bureaucracy. It is usually not long before the folks running the new government institution are bureaucrats who respond to a very different incentive structure from the original activists. The results can be quite perverse, as when a regulatory body becomes too cozy with the industry it is supposed to regulate, or (at the other extreme) a government body virtually shuts down an industry whose interests it was set up to promote. [Trolling]

It is one thing to be committed to an ideal or philosophy. But when that moves away from the grass roots and into the hands of professional lobbyists and bureaucrats, or, the other way, into the hands terrorists and criminals, the ideal or philosophy becomes corrupted. The vision is lost. Achievement is diverted.

The sad fact is that many of the environmentalists have gone to either extreme and those who have stayed true to their mission, the Boy Scouts for instance, often get impugned, belittled, or even attacked.

Comments are closed.