All too often, I hear environmentalists engaging in a pointless discussion over false choices. On the one hand, I hear optimistic, solution-driven greenies arguing it's better to be "for" something, than "against" something. On the other hand, I hear angry activists focusing solely on the structural barriers to sustainability, and the need to create radical, political change.
The fact is that they are arguing for the same thing. It sounds like someone arguing for a team made up entirely of quarter backs, versus a team of linebackers. (Excuse a Brit trying to make a football analogy there..)
Putting Forth Solutions is Important
If you are "for" clean energy, then you are automatically aligning yourself "against" fossil fuels and business-as-usual. But while it might be tempting to think we can circumvent opposition and just "be the change we want to see", or even win opponents over to our side, I am increasingly realizing we have to also metaphorically fight our opponents every step of the way. Yes, it's important to occupy rooftops and build community energy resources; yes, turning your street into an hub of energy-saving innovation is hugely valuable; and sharing with your neighbors should just be common sense by this point.
Fighting Problems is Unavoidable
But as we've seen with the fossil fuel lobbies trying to actively undermine the clean energy industry, we will never get where we need to go if we do not also fight our corner and put pressure on those who are undermining our future.
Collaboration is Key to Success
Sure, it makes sense that some people will be more focused on building solutions, and others on fighting the status quo. I'm not arguing that everyone should abandon their community garden and head down to the picket lines, nor am I suggesting that protesters should all go home and start a solar company. But, like the marines and the air force both fight for a common objective, we must learn to coordinate our efforts and support each other. From the (so far) successful fight against Keystone XL, to the building of an iconic solar bridge in central London or the thrilling rise of the sharing economy, we are seeing important victories on all fronts.
But the defenders of the dinosaur economy are just getting warmed up. So let's make sure we keep our eyes open, our heads down, and our ranks tight.