What Happened to the Environmental Movement?

Marches and rallies against global warming once catered to broad middle-class concerns that cut across partisan lines. No longer.  Peter Wood’s account of last Sunday’s climate march in New York City noted the signs that pointed to the dominance of the cause by extremists: “Capitalism Is a Crime,” “Capitalism = Ecocide” and “Turn Everything Off,” and “We Need a Revolution—Nothing Less.”

The same thing happened to the anti-war marches of 2003, when understandable and not very radical concerns were overwhelmed by extremists who admired Mao, Castro and other assorted dictators. But those marches were organized by the far left. The environmental movement wasn’t. It was just steered that way. Here is a column I wrote in 2004 on the subject of how the environmental movement closed itself off from moderate Democrats and Republicans. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club sat on important committees of the Democratic Party (itself not a very bright idea for an environmental activist seeking  a broad coalition) and was busy that year sliming Dick Lamm, former Democratic governor of Colorado, for running  independently for the Sierra Club board, animated mostly by concern over what uncontrolled immigration would do to the environment. Lamm’s campaign, and that of two other candidates–a black former foreign service officer, and a white scientist–Pope insisted, was one of “hate” and a “virus,” connected somehow to Nazis or Nazi rhetoric. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, another useful and moderate group headed for extremism at the time, dismissed the three candidates as examples of ”the greening of hate.”

Question: how did the non-extreme environmentalists think the movement could prosper by driving out moderates and non-haters?


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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