Summarizes new report from ecoAmerica that maintains that the environmental movement has not been successful in achieving its goals because it has not connected with the people. By focusing too narrowly on government regulation and intervention many environmental groups lost touch with most regular folk. Environmental organizations should put greater focus on social solutions that are built around people.

by Nathan Schock, Director of Public Relations for POET, the largest producer of biofuels in the world. Read his blog, Greenway Communique, follow him on Twitter @nathanschock, or connect on LinkedIn.

The latest report from ecoAmerica is titled “up start with people.” The report states that the environmental community has not been successful at wining the hearts and minds because they have focused mostly on government regulation and intervention. The non-profit sees more success being had by those in the movement who are focused on social solutions that are built around people.

ecoAmerica wants to encourage this shift by bringing together NGOs and others for large-scale public engagement programs targeting mainstream Americans with unquestionable benefits. So far, that has been carried out through higher education initiatives like the President’s Climate Commitment and green college ratings with the Princeton Review, public outreach like Nature Rocks, along with several others listed in the report and soon will include the Center for Social Solutions on Climate.

Seems like a no-brainer. If you want PEOPLE to care about the environment, you should probably also focus on people, right?

Well, it might take a little more convincing to get the environmental community on board. The Spring issue of Nature Magazine had a cover story about Nature Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva suggested that it was time to move past the man vs. nature debate and get people to understand that nature benefits them.

Related post: “Green Marketing Not Over, Just Misdirected“, explores the issue of green marketing not connecting with people arguing that green is not being marketed in the best manner.

When I read the article a few months ago, I thought it was a very pragmatic approach and one that could obviously have a broader appeal than trying to protect nature from man. I also wondered what the response would be from the readers.

Well, you would have thought they published an OpEd in the Catholic News suggesting the Pope convert to Protestantism. Although there were some letters in favor, they overwhelmingly castigated Kareiva, saying “people are the problem,” comparing the Nature Conservancy to Exxon and, of course, threatening to take their funds and go play somewhere else. The Nature Conservancy set up a special place on their web site to continue the debate and the comments there are even more lopsided against Kareiva. My personal favorite was this gem: Ok, let me first say that I will NOT be supporting Nature Conservancy with donations until Peter Kareiva is fired.

No, please. Tell me how you really feel.

If the environmental community wants to broaden their appeal and convince more people to join their movement, they would be wise to follow the lead of ecoAmerica and Kareiva. Instead, it appears that they’re going to act like the activist wing of a major political party that wants to crucify their candidate for moving toward the center in a presidential general election.

If you want to govern, you first have to win. For the environmental community, if they want to be successful, they’ll first have to win the public debate. They’ll have an easier time winning that debate protecting something for people rather than from them.

See our related resource: “The Ultimate Green Twitter Hashtag List: Build Your Online Green Twitter Following“, which lists 150+ Twitter hashtags that can help you gain Twitter followers interested in cleantech, sustainability, green building, climate change and other green topics.

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© 2011, Nathan Schock. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Nathan Schock (3 Articles)

Nathan Schock is the director of public relations for POET, the largest producer of biofuels in the world. He is also a digital advocate of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He wants to help communicators improve their delivery of this information to the public in order to drive social change. Although he monitors communications from all sectors, his primary focus is business, because it the only institution with the resources necessary to implement the lasting changes needed to preserve and protect the environment. You can read his latest thoughts on his blog, Greenway Communique, follow him on Twitter @nathanschock, or connect on LinkedIn.