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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 7, Issue 1, Spring 2010

Brian Treanor
Pages 27-46

Turn Around and Step Forward
Ideology and Utopia in the Environmental Movement

Insufficiently radical environmentalism is inadequate to the problems that confront us; but overly radical environmentalism risks alienating people with whom, in a democracy, we must find common cause. Building on Paul Ricoeur’s work, which shows how group identity is constituted by the tension between ideology and utopia, this essay asks just how radical effective environmentalism should be. Two “case studies” of environmental agenda—that of Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, and that of David Brower—serve to frame the important issues of cooperation and confrontation. The essay concludes that environmentalism must lead with its utopian aspirations rather than its willingness to compromise.

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