Climate Hawks on the Left & Why

Climate Hawks on the Left & Why

Not all green-leaning folks fit under one large umbrella. Turns out there are shades of green, real differences among those who love Mother Nature and want to save the planet. In this article which appeared in Grist, David Roberts parses the term “environmentalist,” explains the differences among the factions, and why “climate hawks” have to be left-leaning.

courtesy, Grist/Shutterstock

courtesy, Grist/Shutterstock

The other day, I wrote a post encouraging green funders and philanthropists to get off the fence, i.e, to acknowledge that environmentalism is now squarely inside the left and work to build the left’s long-term intellectual foundations and political efficacy. The post was an outline of a short presentation that I gave the day prior.

I’ve heard some interesting reactions and I want to clarify what I mean by environmentalism being on the left.

The word “environmentalism” is ambiguous in ways that always confuse these discussions (“green” doesn’t help). There are at least three distinct movements that go under that rubric:

  1. Old-fashioned conservation, which is about protecting the integrity of natural areas. (Think Nature Conservancy.)
  2. Public health environmentalism, which is about protecting the public from harmful pollutants in the air and water. (Think Natural Resources Defense Council.)
  3. Climate change environmentalism, about which more below. (Think

The first, which dates all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt and his national parks, has the most claim to the mantle of bipartisanship (or, even more exalted, nonpartisanship). There have always been Republicans willing to join in protecting swaths of nature. One of the few good things George W. Bush ever did was create a vast marine reserve. There are still many local and state Republicans who proudly call themselves conservationists. It would make no sense for this kind of environmentalism to abandon its claim to bipartisanship and embrace the left. (Lots of the most baffled and/or angry responses to my post came from people working in conservation.)

The second, which emerged in the ’60s and ’70s, is a more interesting case…

Continue reading here.

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