Turning Points: A Series Following the Evolution of the Environmental Movement

This special Drilled series explores the origins of U.S. environmental activism, where the movement has succeeded or faltered, and where it may go.

by | Sep 16, 2020


Photo Credit: Giuseppe Manfra

The environmental movement is in a transition period. It’s gone from the environmental movement to the climate movement for a start, and has spent the last 15 or so years grappling with what it means to center humans in concerns about the planet’s health. Now it’s finally getting around to discovering what it might look like if the climate movement was a justice movement.

We started working on this series with just one piece, laying out the difference between ecomodernism and degrowth, two new-ish camps of thought within the climate movement that often spar with each other. But, we’re pretty big history nerds around here and ultimately we came to realize that to really understand the current movement and where it might be headed, we needed to go back in time, look at the origins of environmental activism and examine its other turning points—what drove them, and what are the key forces that have formed the movement thus far? This series will include both Q&As and features, and instead of beginning at the beginning, we’ll begin in the present and work our way backwards. If you have suggestions for topics or interviews, please send them to [email protected].

Today we bring you three wildly different perspectives, all of them indicative of the current zeitgeist within the climate movement (these interviews will also be available on the Drilled podcast):

  • Ruth Tyson, a young activist who made waves when she published an open letter to her former employer The Union of Concerned Scientists, criticizing the organization’s approach to racial diversity and treatment of employees of color, particularly Black employees.
  • Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic, journalists at the forefront of fracking coverage in Pennsylvania, since co-founding their independent investigative outlet Public Herald back in 2011. Out this month, their new documentary Invisible Hand traces the current rise of the Rights of Nature movement and its potential to shape environmental law, policy and discourse in the years to come.
  • Ted Nordhaus, a longtime leader in the ecomodernist movement and founder of the Breakthrough Institute back in 2003, which advocates for technological solutions to environmental problems.
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Amy Westervelt is the editor-in-chief of Drilled News, creator and host of the Drilled podcast, and founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, named AdWeek's Podcast Network of the Year in 2019. An award-winning print and audio journalist, Amy has contributed to The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as KQED, The California Report, Capital Public Radio, and many other outlets. She is the 2015 winner of the Rachel Carson award for "women greening journalism," and a 2016 winner of an Edward R. Murrow award for her series on the impacts of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. In 2019, the Drilled podcast won the Online News Association's "Excellence in Audio Storytelling" award.