Reading for Thursday, September 16, 2010

Comment here on the reading for Thursday – “A Functional Analysis of the Environmental Movement After 100 Years: The Pragmatists and the Radicals,” David Knapp and Michael Spangle, Speaker and Gavel

Brian will lead discussion, and is planning to post the handout online on Wednesday afternoon.

13 Responses to “Reading for Thursday, September 16, 2010”

  1. McKenna Lehman says:

    The difference between the “pragmatists” and the “radicals” is, evidently, their persuasion techniques. While pragmatists tend to persuade with more conservative and traditional ways, the radicals go all-out as they use a type of theatre to appeal to their audiences. What is most interesting about this article is it’s conclusion, and how the author notes that both groups, though “fiercely independent of each other” (92) work together on a common goal. They seem to compliment each other, though they both continue to criticize each other. This concept is interesting to me, and one that never crossed my mind. The “dramatizing appeals” such as sitting in front of bulldozers and jumping out of helicopters to stop whaling ships are just a few of the seemingly crazy things that radicals do to get attention. Some may think it is over-the-top, but in a way, this helps the pragmatists because people wanting to make a change then cling on to them. The radicals give the issues their exposure, and the pragmatists are then able to follow up in their traditional ways of working within certain social and political systems. No matter how one looks at it, there has been huge success in “greening” our daily life, on the individual level as well as the corporate level. This is all thanks to both the radicals AND the pragmatists. Without one or the other, there might not be as great a success.

  2. Amanda Howland says:

    The way people view the environment and how to manage or protect it is basically based on two ideas. One of them was introduced by John Muir who wanted to leave the land and its species alone and actually protect it from “human assaults” (page 79). The other is from Gifford Pinchot who thought that humans should effectively and wisely develop and manage the land- to use it, but smartly so you don’t ruin it. These two perspectives have founded many different groups over the past 100 years, but each group can be categorized basically into just two labels. A very common labeling based on their persuasive tactics is pragmatists and radicals (classified by Fox in 1990).
    The pragmatists, or moderates, believe that humans can resolve environmental problems by changing human’s views about nature, their laws, and their personal lifestyles. They work within the established social and political systems. They favor changes in governmental policy and industry practices, like forcing corporations to go green and be environmentally aware of their actions.
    In contrast, the radicals have scientific perspectives, refuse to give in politically, and “engage in strong, unconventional, nonviolent tactics.” They argue against the refining of governmental policies concerning the environment and promote no-threshold levels of risks. They hope that a massive campaign will change popular perceptions that will lead to a fundamental change in lifestyles and a large-scale social reconstruction. Since they believe that nature is sacred and needs to be protected they have little want of giving in at all regarding it. They do this by creating an “us-verses-them” mindset, give their issues an urgent air about them that makes people believe that their issues need to be addressed right then, and dramatize their actions to appeal to people.
    These two viewpoints lead to lots of controversy that is growing wider and wider since their views completely clash against each other. But together, these two very different viewpoints, are very successful in actively changing American attitudes and polices regarding the environment. They engage in very persuasive tactics between them that get their views across and action taken.

  3. Mary McClellan says:

    I found the differences between the pragmatics and radicals to be very interesting. The pragmatics focus more on working with the government and the current politics to make greener corporations by personalizing their issues with pragmatic solutions as well as getting celebrities involved. Radicals on the other hand motivate listeners to take action by creating “an us vs. them” mentality and having dramatizing appeals to take action.

    What I thought was most interesting was that the radicals take an “us vs. them” approach not only against the industries and government but against the moderates as well. They criticize the moderates for cooperating with the governments and thus are able to maintain their own identity. In their attempts to be against the moderates they actually help the moderates look more appealing so in a way the radicals view of “us vs. them” works in favor for the pragmatists.

    While reading this article I was wondering if it would be possible and effective to only have the pragmatist view point. The article even points out that the radicals may fade. I think that the radicals are important for bringing new issues into light and that they will never fade. Sometimes you just can’t have an open and cooperative view point, you have to be blunt and direct and a little crazy to get your point across.

  4. Emily Sherman says:

    I find it so interesting that two different approaches can effectively be used to accomplish the same goal. I have no decided opinion on which one of these methods is more effective, because both of them certainly have faults, but each has worked in the past on a number of occasions and while there are still a huge number of problems in the environment to be addressed, and a countless number of policies to be made and enforced, we have to admit that we have come along way and both of these methods have played a role in getting us here.
    I tend to lead toward the side of pragmatists a little more because they work within the system. I think that the more effort that is saved by working with the system that is already in place, the more energy can be used to push your goal. However, I feel that there is less of a chance of your goal being accomplished to the extent that you want it to. Using this method, my fear would be that, while things would get done, the system won’t ever bend the exact way that you want it to because you can’t completely uproot the system while you are still in it.
    Radicalism in my mind comes with a long list of problems. First is the risk of loosing credibility because people see your actions as too extreme. People that somewhat agree with an issue and who could have been convinced to join and work for your issue may be turned off because they don’t agree with the extremity of the action. Second, when (and if) you do accomplish your goal, you don’t have as strong as support group as you would have had you campaigned in a pragmatic way. Being radical generally means that you are working against the system, and although goals are sometimes achieved, you don’t have the system on your side (which comes in handy) afterward.

  5. Fairuz Maggio says:

    This article discusses the two groups that deal with environmentalism. There are the pragmatists that take a more conservative approach and try to handle issues by reforming old laws to fit with new “green” thinking. Radicals on the other hand take a more blunt approach and try to start from scratch and say that we can’t have any of things we’re grown accustomed to. It’s interesting how these two groups take such different approaches to attack the same topic and how they find success, but as McKenna said they can’t do it without the other. These groups remind me of the haggling of prices in a car dealership analogy the other day; the radicals propose something completely crazy and out of the water that the average person can’t put into perspective and the pragmatists negotiate with policies to try to reach something that everyone is able to attain. The radicals, as McKenna was saying, puts issues into the light but the pragmatists are the ones who can haggle the “price down” and find a common ground that everyone can agree on.

  6. Kelly Horvath says:

    This article really intrigued me because it looked closely at both perspectives of the argument: the pragmatists and the radical environmentalists. However, this is not the only way to look at the two sides. They can also be referred to “preservationists and conservationists”, “moralists and aggregators”, and so forth. The groups are classified by their persuasive techniques towards their audiences, which may be scientists, government, or the general American public. The pragmatists aim to quickly form solutions to short-term problems, rather than looking at the long run. By persuading their audience, they “green the corporations, work within social and political systems, personalize issues with pragmatic solutions, and establish credibility with celebrity appeals.” In contrast, radical environmentalists persuade through four different tactics: “create and ‘us vs. them’ polarization, motivate listeners to take action, give followers a reason-to-be, and dramatize appeals to attract attention.”

    Radical Environmentalists use more extreme strategies. For instance, an organization may have sit-ins or protest outside of a building for hours, attracting others to join and therefore become aware of the problem. Where as pragmatists, in return, will make a commercial with a credible celebrity in order to persuade the public to help and make a difference. It is tough to say which tactic works the best. However, both strategies combined would have a strong impact and possibly be more effective, as they have in the past.

  7. Brandy Simpson says:

    In this article, the two types of environmentalists are described as being either pragmatists or radicals. Pragmatists, as described by the authors, are considered the more reserved of the two and believe in working within the existing governmental framework towards changing environmental policy. On the other hand, radicals employ more extreme methods in their attempts to change society’s attitude and actions towards the environment. I considered the overwhelming bias against radicals in this article an obstacle in reading the authors’ conclusion. Repeatedly throughout the article, the authors use words of negative connotation to describe the radicals (e.g. “dangerous”, “violates American social norms”, etc.). I believe radicals are necessary in pushing everyone towards a middle ground, which the pragmatists typically present in their arguments. While the article briefly touches on this teamwork that occurs between the two groups, this point is quickly followed up with the claim that radicals may soon become obsolete. I felt that the article could have been a little more extensive in explaining the positives of having radical environmentalists.

  8. kscrimsh says:

    This paper was all about the differences between the Radicals and the Pragmatics; how they use specific tactics to get support and to raise awareness for their causes. I think it is really cool what these people are doing, both the Pragmatics and the Radicals. They are both trying to get the word out about eco-issues. I truly admire them both, and especally the Radicals (at least most of the time) because it is just really unbelievable how balsey they can be in defense of what they believe in. A modern day example of one of the tactics used by Radicals is the show “Whale Wars” which stars a crew of very radical environmentalists that continue to risk their safety and freedom when they attack the Japanese whaling ships. Their tactic may not be successful in stopping a particulr ship, but the fact that they have their own show and their struggles are being brodcast all over Animal Planet, it is capturing peoples attention and raising awareness of the whales that are in trouble.

  9. shaheen dabestani says:

    I believe the root of the schism to be the angle of perception, anthropocentric or bio-centric, being pragmatist and radical respectively. Yet with our increasing knowledge of life, biology, planetary history, and ecology it is becoming more and more difficult to deny bio-centric ideals, for example including humanity amongst ‘animals’. While the radicals may be morally correct and “closer” to the cause than pragmatists, the true value and strength of a pragmatist is in its name. As human animals the ability to think pragmatically is not just a key asset, but our only true power and talent. If only it were possible to combine the pragmatic processes of adjusting and altering human social behavior, which with our current technologies and mass media is not too crazy of a notion, with the values and ideals of radicalism.
    This is where economics and special interests come in, making it very difficult for a radical to work within the pragmatic channels between people; it would be ‘selling out’.
    Not until there is freedom and equality in economics, until the current form of global capitalism running wild is curbed, will it be possible to merge the ideals of pragmatists and radicals.

  10. James Cruz says:

    The schism between pragmatists and radicals have long defined and indeed shaped the nature of environmentalism. However as other people have alluded to the pragmatist approach is more reasonable both in a modern sense and humanity as a whole.
    Unfortunately the radical movement has been the one to generate the most media attention and has shaped people’s perception of environmentalist as a whole. Nowadays as mentioned in the beginning of class when people think of environmentalist they think of radical hippies who always want to tell other how terrible they are. I think the move towards moderation is the necessary next step in the environmental movement.

  11. Tori Wong says:

    Often times because of their ostentatious techniques of persuasion, Radical Environmental messages are the ones that are seen and given the most attention to by the general public. I believe this is because of the Radical Environmentalist’s use of the media and unnecessary division of environmentalists. Radicals are set in their, strong and sometimes unrealistic (eliminating all technology or further industrialization, for example-pg. 87) opinions of the problem, and hope to use their techniques

    My interpretation of Speaker and Gavel’s introduction to Radical Environmentalists is that they feel somewhat misunderstood (pg 85: “the ideology of eco-radicals is difficult for traditional society to understand”), so they feel the need to counter and raise awareness through any means necessary, even if it’s not the most logical. I agree with the Radical Environmentalist ideals of interconnectivity and lifestyle change, but think that many of their persuasive tactics give the entire environmental movement a bad name.

    I also agree with everyone who has posted about the interesting relationship between the pragmatists and the radicals, understanding that while they are fundamentally different, they are also very much dependent upon on another. After all, the Sierra Club holding a community picnic in Alum Springs Park (pragmatist) will not accomplish nearly as much in terms of visibility as a protest and sit-in outside of city hall (radical).

  12. Kelsey Voss says:

    The pragmatist approach is moderate, but is the most realistic. It is impossible to undo what has been done in the past, which is what the radical approach encompasses. Instead, the current policies must be altered to be more eco-friendly. However, the moderate approach unfortunately is not capable of altering enough policies fast enough to make a big difference. The state that our environment is in right now is so grim, that the radical approach is important and maybe is the best approach. It captures the most attention from audiences, but it is also more difficult to persuade that audience of it’s radical views. The pragmatic’s arguments are logical; they assert the importance of things we need to preserve, because we need them for our own use.
    The section about the radical’s ideas of technology is interesting because they use the same technology they despise to spread their viewpoints. The idea of being part of a group with an identity is also very powerful way the radicals can persuade people. The only teamwork between the 2 groups would have to be an indirect version of teamwork, where possibily moderate people presented with radical solutions to a problem are convinced to compromise on the slightly more radical side, giving up less and getting more done for the environment.

  13. willbennett2012 says:

    I think one of the most interesting points to be taken from this reading relates to the effectiveness of the two movements. Radical environmentalists have long been criticized as not being very effective in long term environmental impacts. Their monkey-wrenching, sit-ins, tree spiking, and other such immediately impacting activities are often criticized as short-term in effect. Pragmatists on the other hand, though not seeing the immediate results that radicals do work more directly for long term goals. Te author mentions near the end of the article how the radicals job might be to push the public towards thinking the moderate pragmatists are perfectly reasonable. I think this is exactly what the effect is, and I think that it is the fundamental functional effect of radical environmentalism, whether they know it or not. Radicals may not be entirely satisfied with the progress made by, and the goals of, the pragmatists but they would probably mostly agree that their work is a step in the right direction. For this reason I think that the radicals, whether they realize it or not, are crucial and extremely effective in that they make pragmatic groups like the Sierra club look incredibly reasonable.