The Environmental Movement Isn’t Big Enough


As politics gets slower, global warming speeds up. The problem isn't feckless officials. Obama has a dream team of climate specialists: Clinton administration EPA veteran Carol Browner as energy czar, Harvard physicist John Holdren as top science advisor, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as Energy secretary and Oakland activist Van Jones as White House green jobs coordinator.

And the problem isn't that environmental groups aren't working hard enough. I've never seen them work more tirelessly, with lobbying efforts in capitals around the world.

In fact, the problem is pretty simple: The environmental movement isn't big enough. It's one of the most selfless of advocacy efforts. But the movement has been sized to save whales and build national parks and force carmakers to stick catalytic converters on exhaust systems. It's nowhere near big enough to take on the fossil fuel industry, the biggest player in our global economy. It's like sending the Food and Drug Administration to fight the war in Afghanistan.

Exxon Mobil Corp. made more money last year than any U.S. company in the history of money. . . .

The news coming out of world capitals makes it clear that we need more than lobbying by environmentalists to get the changes the science demands. We need a movement, a groundswell, to give those lobbyists the clout they need. But we can make it happen only if we join together fast.

-- Bill McKibben, "Can Save the World?," Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2009.