Document Type

Book Review


121 Harvard Law Review 2041 (2008)


This essay reviews Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's recent book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalismto the Politics of Possibility, in which the authors argue that the future of environmentalism, and of American politics more broadly, lies not in stronger evidence, better science, and more reasoned appeals to the public, but instead in sheer marketing acumen, in forming and framing policy goals in a manner that activates the deeply embedded values and cognitive metaphors of the public.The essay first argues that Nordhaus and Shellenberger's critique of environmentalism overlooks the diversity that exists within theenvironmental movement and that, to a large extent, anticipates the themes they claim to be introducing. The essay then examines Nordhaus and Shellenberger's proposed alternative to environmentalism, a version of Richard Rorty - inspired romantic pragmatism that the authors dub the politics of possibility. The essay argues that Nordhaus and Shellenberger's alternative approach is ultimately self-undermining, in that virtually any policy aim on their account could be packaged and marketed to activate virtually any cultural worldview. Finally, the essay takes a more constructive turn, identifying the kinds of questions that a truly post-environmental politics would be required to answer in order to avoid the nightmare of Nordhaus and Shellenberger's republic ofconsultants.

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