Organic arugula, Lake Tahoe, and poverty
In kicking off its seven week series, the talented and witty team at Grist pondered the paradox of U.S. environmentalism: “In much of popular and political culture, the movement is dismissed as the pet cause of white, well-off Americans — people who can afford to buy organic arugula, vacation in Lake Tahoe, and worry about the fate of the Pacific pocket mouse.”
This perception, and how the environmental community responds to it, will determine whether it becomes a movement for everyone, or just for those with a Nalgene in every cupboard and a Gortex in every closet.
Many Americans, environmentalists included, see poverty as a necessary evil, a “by-product of civilization” that will always be with us. In other words, its existence is natural. This analysis of poverty may seem pragmatic, but it morally justifies the continuation of a social system that provides comfort and extravagance for a few, while leaving others to scrape, toil, and struggle to meet their basic needs.
The environmental movement has a sophisticated analysis of environmental degradation, eco-systems, and the political forces influencing the planet. Does the environmental movement have an analysis of poverty? If so, what is it? How do you explain the existence of poverty in the most affluent nation in the world? As an anti-poverty activist (and environmentalist) I’m interested in knowing what Grist readers think.