Our new environmental movement

I stumbled upon this great TED Talk from five years ago by environmental journalist Simran Sethi. Check it out:

Simran Sethi’s engaging talk got me thinking about how we need a new environmental movement. This past year we’ve witnessed a lot of energy within the environmental movement. We saw a huge response to President Trump’s early actions in office, uproar over the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and several massive rallies in the form of the March for Science and the return of the People’s Climate March. These are all good things that have raised awareness about the necessity of political and scientific response to climate change. But with these responses, the environmental movement can only go so far. Perhaps it’s time to restructure our environmental movement so that it delivers more substantial results going forward.

I see the new environmental movement as one that is optimistic and forward-thinking. It shouldn’t just be about reaction but about action. Here are the main characteristics that I hope define this new movement:

  • Optimistic – It’s time to leave behind the days of scientists rolling off statistics about polar bears and build a movement centered around solutions. Apocalyptic thinking is harmful to progress. Solutions are progress.
  • Innovative – We live in the great 21st-Century after all. Let’s mobilize as much technology, data, and creativity as possible in innovating solutions to achieve our sustainable future. Grassroots and grass-fed are awesome but we’ll need the power of technology and data to make a difference.
  • Nonpartisan – Politics are divisive. The government plays an important role in dealing with issues like climate change but relying on politicians to have an impact and reacting when they don’t gets us nowhere. We need solutions that bring together governments, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals, not despite partisan differences, but because of a diversity of ideas.
  • Inclusive – Beyond political differences, we need a movement where anyone can be an environmentalist. From hippie activists to business executives and from urban factory-workers to rural fourth-generation farmers, our new environmental movement needs as much strength as possible.
  • Values-driven – Perhaps most importantly, we can only achieve positive impact if we create value through this environmental movement. That means understanding why we value the environment and how to mobilize people who value it for different reasons.

This new environmental movement could confront the terrifyingly-complex issues that we face today, such as climate change. But it would do so not by focusing on the issues themselves, but on how we are going to solve them together. To conclude, I’ll try to bring it all back to the topic of this blog: sustainable food. Perhaps a focus on food is the perfect starting place for our new environmental movement. Food is universal and every single person needs it. Food brings us together, makes us happy, and gives us strength. Food also connects us to the planet. If we make the act of eating an environmental act, we allow anyone to be an environmentalist. And if we make feeding all humans a priority, we make the environmental movement a necessity.


Author: Graham Turbayne

Hello! I'm a 2016 graduate of Duke University figuring out how to contribute to a sustainable future. I'm passionate about advancing food sustainability, wildlife conservation, and innovation. I enjoy tacos and cats in my spare time.

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