Friday, March 25, 2005

What does it take to make change?

The very public fight over the future of the environmental movement marks a new moment in the civil discourse around philanthropy. For one thing, it has been anything but a civil discourse. Ever since the paper, "The Death of Environmentalism" hit cyberspace it has caused hand wringing, charges of arrogance and stupidity, defensive posturing and a whole lot of heated responses. It even hit the front page of the New York Times. My interest is not in the authors' content or the respondents' defensiveness but in the strategy for change that 1) possibly informed the paper, its tone and its distribution or 2) may result from the paper's tone, distribution and the responses it has generated.

I don't want to support obnoxious mudslinging as a means of sparking change (though it has certainly worked for many a political campaign). I'm not at all sure that the paper and its authors will shift policies and practices as they may have hoped. But I do think it is important that all of us be open to challenges to our ideas, that we see those challenges as chances to sharpen our thinking, and that everyone in the mainstream middle or progressive left wake up and realize that our ideas as currently packaged, marketed and implemented also are not making the changes we want.

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