CONGRESS IS A CHANGIN, WHAT’S AN ELITE ENVIRONMENTALIST TO DO?

Dec, 21, 2010  |  Today's News |  Legislation & Regulation

Well, they played a good game. But with the Congressional turnover that’s taking place in Washington over the next few weeks, there’s little hope that the most elitist leaning environmentalist will find many friends inside the beltway. After spending a decade or more pushing for cap-and-trade style legislation, many are packing up and heading home. But, home is where the heart is, and they might be able to inflict “death by a thousand cuts.”

 

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund told The Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin, "Certainly I think we have figured out we need to find a way to really listen harder and connect with people all over America, especially in rural America," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "I don't think we've done a particularly good job of that."

 

In the same article, Eilperin reported that 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who has been trying to foster a global grass-roots movement, wrote in an e-mail he sees it as the only way to overcome traditional opponents who are far better positioned in Washington: "Since we're never going to compete with Exxon in money," he wrote, "we better find another currency, and to me bodies, spirit, creativity are probably our best bet."

 

It’s a situation of a grassroots movement getting all topsy-turvy. Basically, many hardcore environmental groups forgot (or decided) to touch base with everyday Americans. Their agendas, although laudable and agreeable to many in theory, hit too hard in too many pocketbooks. And that spelled their doom. Or at least, it spelled their doom for now in Washington, DC.

 

But as Illinois Corn Growers Association knows, the power is in the grassroots. That’s why we’re constantly checking in with our members, asking you to participate in policy surveys, and communicating with you on key issues.

 

What if these environmental groups regroup, re-establish their roots, and grow stronger than before? There’s evidence that might already be happening. As the larger measures failed to pass in Washington, DC, the playbook has changed to a local focus. And oh boy! Here they come!

 

For example, The Nature Conservancy successfully championed a ballot initiative in Iowa this fall that will devote a portion of any future sales tax increase to land and water conservation initiatives. According to its president, Mark Tercek, a series of floods helped focus Iowans' attention on the benefits of preventing soil erosion and other problems.

 

The Sierra Club, meanwhile, is bolstering its long-standing campaign to block the construction of power plants across the country, assembling a team of 100 full-time employees to focus on the issue in 45 states. '

 

And we’re sure you can think of examples you’ve heard locally or on the news. Are you ready?