2/16/2008 11:09:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Don't know where it came from, but here's where I got it.

Reform vs. Revolution
2/15/2008 01:17:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
This topic deserves more than one measly blog post, so I hope to expand on the idea over time. Right now, it's just a way to sort out the thoughts in my head that have been swirling around since I returned to college to study environmental policy.

The idea of reform vs. revolution comes up frequently in contemporary discussion about environmental concerns. The typical "image" of a environmentalist in the 1970-1980's would have mostly likely been described as a Greenpeace activist chasing off a Japanese whaling ship, or a radical ecologist chaining themselves to a tree to prevent deforestation or destruction of a endangered species habitat. How would you describe today's environmentalist "image"? I guess that the idea conjures up a Prius driving (or a bike-riding), organic and local food eater, working to become more sustainable and "off the grid", who may or may not write a passionate blog, disgorging his soul out over the keyboard to his "community" of like minded readers.

Perhaps the image is different to you. (if so please comment on what you believe the image to be. Please base it on action, not ideals.)

The question raised in reform vs. revolution, is what is the best means to achieve our goal of "saving the environment"?
  • Should we attempt to reform the system that we live in? (In my case the capitalist, representative political system.)
  • Would we be best served by changing the habits of consumers to make them more sustainable?
Reformist argue, there is no sense in fighting the system we live in, we'd be better off in compromising some of our principles to achieve changes in the habits of our fellow citizens currently unaware or uninterested in environmental issues. Many would describe themselves as "realists".

  • Capitalism is the root of many of the environmental damages inflicted over the past 200 years. The government in its current form is ineffective in dealing with these problems. Why should we attempt to reform these corrupt systems when they are a major reason that we are in this mess in the first place?
  • Is our goal to become "more sustainable" yet still not truly sustainable? Can we really grow our way into sustainability?
Today, many "revolutionary" environmentalists espouse going "off the grid", or dropping out of society. Anti-consumerism permeates the mission: frugality, strict conservation, 100 mile diets, no new purchases for a year, etc.

At this point in the discussion, we are not going to choose sides or make judgments.

I'll close with a few mental exercises. Compare the following:

a) Someone who sells their car, and walks, bikes, and takes public transportation everywhere they need to go.

b) Someone who drives a hybrid 30 mins each way to work, to a government think tank job which helped write the law that improved mileage standards by several mpg over the next 10 years.


a) Someone who puts up solar panels, and changes to LED lighting and minimal use of electricity in order to get off the grid.

b) The Walmart executive that made getting consumers to switch to CFL's from incandescent bulbs a top environmental policy.


a) The person that votes for a Green Party candidate

b) The person that votes for the candidate judged "more environmentally friendly" in the main two political parties.

Thoughts are welcome.

UPDATE: It's amazing how ideas or memes spread through the internet. I was sent this post randomly today. It's asking questions along the same lines that I proposed: