Book cover for Arcadian America by Aaron Sachs

ACSF External Advisory Board member Fred Krupp and Faculty Fellow Aaron Sachs (HIST) are central in an article by Nicholas Lemann 

What Happened to the Environmental Movement?

April 12, 2013

Book cover for Arcadian America by Aaron Sachs

ACSF External Advisory Board member Fred Krupp and Faculty Fellow Aaron Sachs (HIST) are central in an article by Nicholas Lemann, “When the Earth Moved: What Happened to the Environmental Movement?” in the April 15 issue of The New Yorker.

Fred KruppFred Krupp, EDF President

Lemann asks why today’s environmental movement is “vastly less successful” than the uncentralized grassroots effort that launched Earth Day in 1970, even though it is “bigger, richer, and better connected.” In short, “What went wrong?” Lemann takes readers on a tour through 40 years of environmentalism, touching on Krupp’s longtime leadership of the Environmental Defense Fund.

He concludes with a look at some new and strategic ways to “understand our environmental responsibilities.” Sachs’ recent book, Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition, offers one productive approach, Lemann argues:

[Sachs] rejects the ideal of protecting nature from human civilization. Instead, he thinks, we should revive an earlier, more integrated American tradition: “Our forebears were obsessed with the possibilities of Arcadia—that ancient society of solid rural values, of pastoralists who wandered free over a broad countryside of mountain meadows and forest glens, yet who also, somehow, established the kinds of stable civil institutions that ennobled Aristotle’s Athens.” To understand this tradition and then to bring it back to life, he believes, “could be precisely what’s needed in the age of global warming.”

Aaron SachsAaron Sachs (HIST)

We will mark another Earth Day on April 22. Lemann ends with an important call to action: “To turn concern into action requires politics. The science of carbon emissions is there. The politics is not. On its anniversary, Earth Day is worth not just celebrating but also studying—as a story with political lessons.”