Why I’m Not an Environmentalist

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Why I’m Not an Environmentalist

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In the last 20 years, the number of people self-labeling as environmentalists has dropped 25%. But that's OK: http://bit.ly/JmktHv #green
Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 8:45pm


I believe in climate change. I ride my bike everywhere, I work at a solar company, I buy organic and local when I can. I am young, liberal and idealistic. But I’m not an environmentalist. And I’m not alone.

Over the past decade the number of Americans who identify as environmentalists has steadily declined, from a peak in 1990 of 75 percent to less than halfof Americans today. For most of the past three decades, a strong majority of Americans prioritized the environment, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. But since 2009, most of us have been unwilling to make that trade-off.

At the same time, as the New York Times recently reported, a large majority of Americans believe that the weird weather of late is at least partially caused by global warming. Another poll showed that 83% of Americans want more government support for clean energy. Yet another showed that three in four Americans recycle, have reduced their household energy use and buy environmentally friendly products.

In sum: Americans are beginning to believe in climate change and most of us have adopted various forms of environmentally-friendly behaviors. But, we now prioritize economic growth over the environment and don’t want to be called “environmentalists.” So what’s changed? Is it just a matter of labeling?

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A frequent blogger for Forbes and The Huffington Post, Lisa Curtis currently manages communications for Solar Mosaic and is working on starting a nutrition-focused social enterprise called Kuli Kuli. Previously, Lisa wrote political briefings for President Obama in The White House, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger and managed communications for an impact investment firm in India.


Keywords: Environment | Change | Environmentalism | Green | economic growth | sustainability