Drought

Faculty director for the environment, Alex Travis, at The Baker Institute for Animal Health, compares public awareness about environmental issues to gay marriage and the confederate flag. Is there a tipping point that will motivate collective concern and political action?  

What Tragedy is Needed for Action on the Environment?

July 13, 2015

Drought

Faculty director for the environment, Alex Travis, at The Baker Institute for Animal Health, compares public awareness about environmental issues to gay marriage and the confederate flag. Is there a tipping point that will motivate collective concern and political action? 

There has been no shortage of recent news regarding some of the deepest political and philosophical divides in our nation. Stories on the environment, from the release of the papal encyclical "Laudato Si: On the Care of our Common Home" to the Supreme Court decision on Michigan v. EPA, have bookended this period. Yet it is the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage and the tragedy in Charleston, S.C. that might ultimately provide the best look at the future of environmental causes such as addressing biodiversity loss and climate change. Progress on these issues came recently in two very different ways.

In the case of gay marriage, there has been a steady change in public opinion. Googling "tipping point for gay marriage" brings up a variety of articles dating back to 2009, all pointing to various court rulings or laws as key moments. In so doing, these stories show that there was no single moment. Public opinion changed gradually as more and more people came to know friends, co-workers or family members open about their sexual orientation. The issue became familiar, and the public spoke out for their best interests and those of the ones they love.

In contrast, change in the case of the racially motivated shooting in Charleston stemmed from a single, horrible act of hatred . . . Read more