The Radical Center

About a year ago, we published a story entitled “The Radical Center,” which reported on a group in New Mexico called the Quivira Coalition who are drawing together ranchers and environmentalists to work together. They are promoting the fact that underdrawing on a regenerating resource – such as forage on rangeland – will cause the sustainable output of that resource to increase each year. That is, by letting ecosystems recover, the amount of sustainable grazing that can eventually be permitted will become greater than the land previously endured when being overgrazed.

This isn’t the only example of a win-win that occurs when rationality prevails. “The Radical Center” is a perfect way to describe this approach, because it takes courage to move away from entrenched extremes and find common ground. Agreement is usually possible, when emotions are removed and competing positions are distilled to their most logical elements.

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, and founder of the environmental group Earth Echo International, in a recent television interview said the following: “One of the worst things that ever happened to the environmental movement was that it became associated with leftist ideology.” We couldn’t agree more.

Radical centrist is just another word for moderate, problem solver, consensus builder – it is an ideology unto its own, or perhaps it is an anti-ideology. Whatever it is, the world could use more of it.

A related notion worth mentioning, in our attempt here to question environmentalist stereotypes, is the idea of severability. That is, there is not a monolithic environmentalist “party line.” No matter how fanatically one environmentalist may believe something to be urgently true, another environmentalist may completely disagree, yet both of them are environmentalists.

According to the notion of severability, you can be an environmentalist and question whether or not anthropogenic CO2 is the primary cause of global warming. You can be an environmentalist and believe that measured use of DDT would cause more good than harm in the world. You can be an environmentalist and believe that business and technology are just as responsible for solving environmental challenges as they are for creating them to begin with.

Environmentalism will advance faster in the world if these two factors – centrist approaches, and acceptance of diverse views on environmental issues – become commonplace, and are celebrated instead of fought.

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