1 July 2011

Gus Speth: Communicating environmental risks in an age of disinformation

Once described as “the consummate environmental insider,” Gus Speth, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says that green organizations, politicians, and the media are failing to address the root causes of climate change and other environmental problems. He points the finger at what he calls the “economic growth imperative”—the incessant quest for wealth by corporations, governments, and individuals—and argues for decoupling job growth from economic growth. Speth envisions a post-growth society in which renewable energy plays an important role, but the emphasis is on improved efficiency: an energy-sipping, rather than an energy-guzzling, society. He reflects on the politicization and polarization that destroyed a national consensus for action on climate change. Speth urges environmental groups not to settle for meager progress in Washington, but rather to challenge the political system and to build broad coalitions with groups working for social justice and political reform.