Sometimes, the ecological revolution of the 21st century seems stalled. There hasn’t been significant environmental legislation for years. Republican resourcism and denials of what everybody else can see with their own eyes dominates public discourse. Environmentalists are caricatured as Birkenstock-wearing long-haired hippies AND (inconsistently) as “enviro-nazis.”
And yet there’s a lot going on at the grassroots. In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken contends that the environmental movements—local, logical, practical, problem-solving—are the largest social movement in the history of the world. Businesses are embracing environmental action—especially efficiencies—as standard operating procedure. And most people—even most Republicans—believe that we need to pay attention to environmental health, making polluters pay for poisoning the rest of us.
This situation isn’t new; it happened in democratic revolution of the 18th century as well. Long afterward, John Adams wrote that the American Revolution “was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”
That’s true for the ecological revolution as well, and so it’s worth asking: How have we affected the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people we know—and the people we don’t know too? How are we engaging the hearts and minds of Americans in our time?