Is environmentalism elitist? | The Tylt

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Is environmentalism elitist?
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In 2018, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report warning that the world would need to make “unprecedented changes” in order to limit the global temperature increases. Failure to do so will result in widespread famine, coastal flooding, and extreme weather events as early as 2030. For these reasons, environmental activists say saving the planet should be everyone's top concern. Others argue that environmentalism is a concern for the elitethere's room to care about the climate when it's easy to make ends meet. What do you think?

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In 2015, 195 countries came together to sign the Paris Climate Agreement in order to mitigate the rise of the global temperature. This agreement marks one of the first times the vast majority of countries united to achieve a common purpose–an unprecedented agreement in order to enact unprecedented change. As the United Nations puts it: 

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.

In late 2018, the countries originally part of the accords revisited their collective efforts and the progress made thus far. NPR's Michel Martin interviewed UC Berkeley's Dan Kammen on what this meaning would mean for the future of the agreement. The goal of the meeting was to strike a "deal on how countries should implement the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement." According to Kammen: 

...the rules of reporting for carbon emissions were clarified, and that's much more important than it sounds.
The idea is that if you build a new wind farm or you replace a coal plant with solar or you preserve a forest or a wetlands, what's the protocol? And what's the method to figure out what was the greenhouse gas impact of that? And, without such a clear playbook, every country can set their own definitions of the direct emissions and what we call the life cycle, the cradle-to-grave emissions of making a solar panel or building a home.
And so these rules are critically important. It allows the international community to look quite clearly at what each country is doing. That said, getting to these agreements in the playbook had to happen, and it did.

Given the collective nature of this agreement, it's clear that climate change is an international issue, and it's one the world has limited time to address. Saying environmentalism is only for the elite encourages a narrow focus. 

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But some say that for the working class, environmentalism is at the bottom of a list of other immediate concerns, such as job security, health care and wages. Concern about the environment seems to thrive where there is also money and comfort–in other words, where there is room to worry about things like the planet because there is always food on the table and a job to go to.

The New York Times' Neil Gross says that according to some social scientists, affluent people are more concerned with the environment than the average person:

In a landmark 1995 paper, the sociologist Ronald Inglehart observed an intriguing pattern in public support for the environmental movement. According to a public opinion survey he conducted in 43 nations, the countries where large percentages of the population supported strong environmental policies shared two characteristics: They were dealing with major environmental challenges (air and water pollution and species conservation were among the top priorities at the time) and they were affluent.
Mr. Inglehart anticipated that growing prosperity, rising education levels and increasingly dire environmental circumstances would translate into the further spread of environmental consciousness in the years to come.
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However, Gross continues his reporting by pointing out some inconsistencies in Inglehart's theory: 

Thought-provoking as Mr. Inglehart’s thesis is, however, it’s not hard to identify weaknesses. Here’s an obvious one: The United States...is a prosperous country with a well-educated population. Yet according to a survey conducted this year by the Pew Research Center, only 44 percent of Americans say they care a great deal about climate change.

Furthermore, the consequences of climate change know no bounds; if anything, under-served communities will be hit harder by these consequences than the rich. According to the Earth Day Network:

...environmentalism isn’t all about manufacturing sleek prototype cars or preserving the wilderness for people who can afford to go on vacation. Without environmentalism, we’d continue exploiting the Earth for material gain, which wouldn’t help much with economic inequality, and produce pollution and climate change, which affect everyone. 
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Although environmentalism was once synonymous with social justice, things have changed. According to The Atlantic'a Jedediah Purdy, the environmental movement has transformed from a grassroots to a top-down approach, which has re-categorized the effort in the public eye as one reserved for the elite. 

Purdy points out that in the 1980s many critiqued "mainstream environmentalism" for "being too elite, too white, and too focused on beautiful scenery and charismatic species." 

Although today environmentalists are much more concerned with global temperatures than state parks, it's approach still carries the tone of elitism: 

...critics say mainstream environmentalism over-values elite forms of advocacy, like litigation and high-level lobbying, and doesn’t make enough room for popular engagement. It creates a movement of professionals and experts: lawyers, economists, and ecologists who have limited interaction with, and do relatively little to empower, the people who live with the most severe environmental problems.
FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Is environmentalism elitist?
A festive crown for the winner
#TheEliteGoGreen
#AllSaveThePlanet