Facing one of the most dangerous conservation crises in history—acid rain—lawmakers, industry leaders, and activists embraced an attitude of civil engagement that sought common ground and acceptance of compromise solutions on all sides. As a result, they achieved a spectacular outcome. This approach was also at work when another planet-threatening event—ozone depletion—was reversed.
In Green in Gridlock, Paul Walden Hansen, the former head of the Izaak Walton League, takes stock of what has been accomplished and what has been squandered in the many environmental contests in which he was involved during his forty-year career as a conservationist. In seeking to identify the strategies that worked and to pinpoint why progress on so many important issues never materialized, Hansen realized that the most important predictor of success or failure was the willingness of opposing interests to find common ground and to compromise in order to attain mutually important goals.
Polling demonstrates that, overwhelmingly, Americans care about the environment but are less enthusiastic about environmentalists. Accordingly, Hansen issues a pointed critique for activism of the “rather fight than win” variety. But he is also critical of conservative interests that oppose environmental legislation as a matter of principle while forgetting that a long string of cost-effective environmental legislation from the Clean Air Act to the Wilderness Act—was passed by overwhelming bipartisan margins and signed into law by Republican presidents in the 1970s. Hansen makes a convincing case that thinking and acting ideologically rather than strategically is ultimately bad for the environment.
More than a simplistic call for civility or yet another admonition that we all “work together,” this book offers practical lessons and a positive vision from a seasoned veteran on how to create support instead of opposition, how to recognize natural allies, and how to acknowledge common purpose in the name of progress.
What Readers Are Saying:
“I believe that this book represents an important contribution to the dialogue about the nature of the conservation movement in the United States and how the movement may best achieve its goals. Although other volumes over the last few decades have critiqued the environmental movement, the most recent ones that I am aware of are primarily works by authors with a philosophical or political agenda that colors their critique. Hansen’s work is a practical examination of the movement with the intent of providing guidance for how the movement might achieve greater success. In that respect I am not aware of any current book that competes with this book and thus it represents an addition to the literature that is not duplicative.”—Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair and former director, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, and editor, The Living Waters of Texas
“Paul Hansen has lived through and/or observed many of the case studies he depicts in his book. In an era of legislative and conservation policy stagnation, Paul cites numerous examples of the use of compromise by opposing sides. Some worked and some did not, but this text clearly promotes the concept that compromise is the only means of achieving reasonable and sustainable conservation policy. This book is a must read for those experienced conservationists, industry representatives, and legislators to remind us all of previous successes and failures, and it is essential to teach the next generation so that they may learn from our experiences.”—Robert D. Brown, professor and Dean Emeritus, North Carolina State University
“Paul Hansen is one of the most intelligent and reasonable voices in the environmental movement today. He understands the importance of evidence and argues for benefits of civil discourse as we confront some of our most serious issues. All of us--citizens, policy makers, and activists--can learn from him.”—Tori Haring-Smith, president, Washington & Jefferson College
"Paul Hansen was on the inside at the center of the environmental movement for over three decades. This is a book about what he learned and where we should go from here. His exceptional knowledge, keen analysis and accumulated wisdom make it a 'must-read.'"--John Flicker, former president, National Audubon Society
“The civility of the Conservation Center has never been as forcefully advocated. Paul Hansen’s thoughtful presentation on the immediate need for compromise on issues of the environment and conservation ought to be delivered to all who make policy, as well as those who profess to want to make or break change. The radical center is the only place where common ground can be found and then molded into lasting progress.”--George Bristol, author, On Politics and Parks
"This is an important book, not just for environmentalists but for anyone concerned about gridlock and polarization in the United States. Paul Hansen makes a persuasive, evidence based argument for civil engagement and collaboration as tools for progress. And, he offers compelling case studies of success, showing strategies and attitudes that get results. I recommend it highly."--G. Jon Roush, strategy consultant to over 100 conservation groups, former president, Wilderness Society, and former chair, Nature Conservancy
"An inside look at the high stakes battles on environmental issues that have pitted potential allies in the green and sportsmen's communities against each other in pursuit of perfect policy. The book provides important insights for furture conservation leaders, and reminers to those currently leading the conservation movement.
Hansen's book is not filled only with the admonitions of somone who has been in the trenches, only to see battles lost. He also describes positive efforts that have been made in working with industry, large corporations, and religious communities who have an interest in the environment and conservation." --Wildlife Management Institute