Back in the pre-Sept. 11 era, or roughly a lifetime ago, when the word terrorism cropped up during discussions of environmental issues, it always seemed slightly out of context, an act of appropriation. Vandalism committed in the name of the environment (against SUVs, genetically engineered crops, sprawling housing developments) became eco-terrorism. Some environmentalists co-opted the word right back, and deliberate environmental degradation and destruction became terrorism as well. But the word was always more a barometer of rhetorical excess than an adequate characterization of either militant greens or their worst enemies.

Photo: FEMA.

Now, of course, the word terrorism is cropping up everywhere, and it is nowhere out of context. Real terror, as well as our national response to it, suddenly has everything to do with everything, and the environment is no exception. There are the immediate concerns (is the air in lower Manhattan safe to breathe?); the mid-range uncertainties (can New York rebuild in a way that minimizes congestion and sprawl?); and the long-term impact (how will national political agendas and alliances shift as a result of the attacks?). In all these and other, unforeseen, ways, the environmental movement will be shaped by — and, hopefully, help shape — national and international response to the events of Sept. 11.

In this special issue of Grist, environmental writers and activists begin to consider the future of environmentalism.

  • Keith Schneider, a former national correspondent for the New York Times, talks with environmental opinion-shapers who believe the progressive movement can seize the day.
  • Environmental thinker Wendell Berry issues a post-Sept. 11 manifesto to environmentalists.

  • Ed Marston, the dean of Western environmental journalism, speculates about the future of Western land management in an era of recession, war, and a distracted Washington, D.C.

  • Writer Seth Zuckerman revisits the principles of ecology to make sense of terrorism and counter-terrorism.

  • Vermont activist Elizabeth Sawin turns to mitochondria to sustain hope in humanity.

  • Grist Contributing Editor Kathryn Schulz describes the new environmental movement she’d like to join.

  • Meanwhile, eco-terrorists get downgraded, and Zed, last of his species, pokes a little fun at ours.

  • What now? You tell us. Write to letters@grist.org.