Economics the next big thing in green activism

Green activists are increasingly embracing environmental economics, combining profit-oriented pragmatism with eco-idealism to make powerful cases for saving the environment. Although the field has been evolving for the past 40 or so years, activists really started to take note in the 1990s when a sulfur-dioxide emissions-trading program in the U.S. proved highly effective at reducing acid rain. Today, many of the big green groups — along with government agencies — employ environmental economists, and market-based arguments for good environmental policies and practices are increasingly successful. Rainforest Action Network has convinced three prominent banks to account for the cost of pollution when considering loans. RAN’s Michael Brune argues that firms can do better business “by investing in sustainable energy, where they don’t run the risk of lawsuits or federal regulation or the reputation of being associated with environmentally controversial projects.”