Good-bye, Polar Bears, Hello, Oil-drenched Pelicans: How the Gulf Spill is Changing the Environmental Movement

illustrations from New York Magazine

Climate change was always a tough sell. But as an important article by Jason Zengerie in New York Magazine points out, it mostly seems to happen in another place, and another time. He quotes a pollster: "People overwhelmingly say melting ice is a very bad thing. The problem is that hardly any Americans live next to a melting glacier." As can be seen by Brian's post yesterday on the consensus among scientists on climate change, nothing will convince the sceptics. Jason Zengerie blames Al Gore; he made climate change political. But the gulf oil spill: almost everybody gets that.
illustrations from New York Magazine

Andy Revkin is quoted about the difficulty in convincing people about the problems of climate change.

"I could spend the next twenty years trying to write really good stories about climate, the way I've spent the last twenty years doing that, but I lost the sense that that was a route to efficacy. If the social-psychology research shows people don't change their stances on these issues based on new information, and I'm in the information business, then what the hell am I doing?"

The article of full of nuggets. On why people spend money on solar panels instead of insulation, doing the visible if less effective and expensive thing:

"One reason the Prius has been so successful is because it's distinctive-looking," says [Keith] Goodman. "Prius owners brand themselves with it. But when you look at other things you can do, like get your home weatherized, that's totally invisible. All those peer and social effects don't happen."

Bill McKibben thinks that the oil spill may be the kick needed to finally get the climate movement out of its stupor.

In 1969, the Santa Barbara oil spill and the burning Cuyahoga River helped give birth to the first Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Clean Air Act; in 1979, the Three Mile Island accident gave a dramatic boost to the anti-nuclear movement. "One hopes that what's happening in the gulf will have some of the same kind of effect," McKibben says. "This has the potential to be a galvanizing moment for the climate movement."

Fascinating reading in New York Magazine

Tags: Oil Spill


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