The language of environmentalism

Global warming became climate change. What needs to come next?

Watching the Biden Administration reengage with the climate crisis with clear urgency has been incredibly refreshing. Listening to the language of the Left get mired in the largely indistinct and indiscriminate “Green New Deal” epithet has been exhausting. On Earth Day yesterday, I saw a raft of conversations generally famed as some version of “we need a Green New Deal for _____.” Making the climate consequences a central pillar of every policy conversation just like budget and equity impact should 100% be the norm. Using a confusing epithet that no one agrees on the definition of including opponents who manage to use it effectively (partially because it does not have a clear definition) to villainize any policy before anyone even gets into its details is, at best, self-defeating and, at worst, just bad leadership.

So what needs to come next in the evolving language about environmental impact from global warming to climate change is actually nothing. What we need to make climate consequences fundamental to all policy is to normalize the idea that saying “green energy policy” is like saying “energy policy policy” not to find a new clever, bumper sticker epithet target for the opponents of progress to embrace as a new target. Our relationship to the planet must be a fundamental building block of all of our public systems from energy to food to jobs to taxes to media to transportation to everything else government does. Framing matters. And the language we use around climate matters. I simply think we’re currently putting our narrative efforts in the wrong places in order to get where we desperately need to go.

More to come on how we shift our energy (pun intended) to a new narrative about climate impact.


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