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The Guardian, one of the UK’s top daily newspapers, has posted a list of “The top 50 people who could save the planet” that’s getting lots of attention in and beyond green circles. This list is worth checking out for a number of reasons. The brief write-ups are a helpful review of the scope of thinking, strategies and actors in this space. Many of the names will be new to U.S. readers and as such reflect the leading edge of climate politics in Europe, where climate change discussions span a wider spectrum of points-of-view, ranging from “light green”, centrist, pro-business perspectives and extending to more radical, “dark green” anti-growth strategies that are rarely discussed in mainstream U.S. press.
The diversity of messages, and methods, of the Top 50 also get at a how the climate change discussion is evolving. Movers and shakers in the early era of climate change activism routinely relied on the “shock and horror” approach to stir the public into awareness and action – the time to act is fleeting, polar bears are drowning, coastal cities are doomed and so on.
Time has shown this kind of tactic can have unintended consequences. It fuels a kind of green fatalism that leads to less action. Duly frightened, folks shrug their shoulders, turn off to the issue and glumly go about refueling their Hummers while rushing to plan vacations to imperiled ecosystems before the last lemur disappears. It’s a grim twist in this all.
Without whitewashing the urgency and complexity of the issue, an alternative strategy is to focus on how change can happen, the rewards of rebuilding our social fabric with green technologies, and of putting a monetary value on the environment in order to save it. Such free market environmentalism is upsetting to some, but it’s a powerful current, for example, in the U.S. presidential debate, so must be taken seriously.
The introduction steps through some less ponderous challenges the list markers — a panel of scientists, politicians, business people, journalists and environmentalists – faced. For example, do celebrities such as Leonard DiCaprio lower the gravitas of the list? Their answer: no, since celebrities have emerged as powerful communicators about green issues.
BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.