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Environmental Tribalism, 87 Minn. L. Rev. 1099 (2003, Symposium Issue: The Pragmatic Ecologist: Environmental Protection As A Jurisdynamic Experience)


[W]e have a growing number of leading environmental law and policy scholars calling for a pragmatic, centrist approach. We have a public that seems to widely support just such an approach. Yet environmental advocacy seems to remain largely a tribal battleground. Why is that? And, more germane to this Symposium, what does that mean for the prospects of an eco-pragmatic approach successfully passing through the cutting gate?

Our exploration of these issues proceeds in two parts. In Part I, we describe in more detail what we mean by environmental tribalism, focusing on reactions to The Skeptical Environmentalist as an illustrative example. Part II then examines the dynamics that drive the cutting gate phenomenon and reinforce tribal behavior. We conclude by noting that the social dynamics described in Part II tend to block both the emergence and acceptance of eco-pragmatism at the level of public advocacy. We argue, therefore, that scholars and others seeking to advance the cause of the "radical middle" should focus their efforts in those areas where environmental tribalism is least entrenched and pragmatism most appreciated-at the level of policy implementation.

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