Do Progressives Care About the Environment?

by jhwygirl

I’m asking. Seriously. It’s been on my mind.

Is the environment a ‘platform’ issue for progressives? Or is just one of the 10,000 things that they/we care about? I mean – is not caring about the environment a deal breaker? Does not caring make you not a progressive?

Obviously I care about it…but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Hell – I even wonder sometimes if I’m a progressive. So my ability to know whether the environment is something everyone cares about is somewhat shaded by my own prejudices (and ignorance as I’m sure some would say.)

Seeking some clarity on that matter. Whatever you can offer up will be kindly appreciated.


  1. JC

    The question shouldn’t be one of “what are progressive planks?” but rather one of “is this position progressive or not?”

    I’ve debated with myself, and with others what it is to be “a progressive.” And find that it is a lot more nebulous than being “a liberal.”

    So I’m fine with looking at my positions on issues, and not have to consistently worry about whether or not I’m taking the progressive position.

    So, even if I don’t have 100% progressive positions, or don’t toe the liberal line at all times, I still like to think of myself as a progressive: more progressive positions than naught.

    Now to the question of what the core principles that progressives adhere to, that is a little more vague. Of course I would start with the environment, and stake out the principled positions. That’s pretty much where I got my entry into activism and politics.

    Progressives don’t believe in preemptive war.
    Progressives believe in universal health care (single payer would be best).
    Progressives believe in choice, and freedom to love and marry whomever they want.

    The list goes on and on…

    But I’m sure there are many who say they are progressives, yet come off with totally anti-progressive stances on some particular issues.

    But I don’t think that progressivism has quite gotten to the rigidity that conservatism has in its ideology.

    Progressivism isn’t hateful or spiteful.
    Progressivism isn’t selfish.
    Progressivism can be pragmatic.
    Progressivism can be flexible and change–it can be informed by rational or logical thought.
    Progressivism can actually be the most conservative view (like preserving wilderness or species diversity).

    I feel like there’s going to be a flurry of trolling at any moment, so I’ll stop there. ;-) My dittohead detectors are going off.

  2. It all depends on what you mean by “progressive.” I don’t really see it as a left/right thing, but as a movement or ideology that has egalitarianism at its core, an ideology that seeks to make sure political and cultural systems are “fair,” for lack of a better term.

    And it depends on what you mean by “environmentalism,” too. There’s a difference between an environmentalist who’s more of a purist — who wants to deny or curb human interaction with wilderness — and there’s the environmentalist who wants to ensure healthy ecosystems, largely because that’s healthful and helpful to humans.

    So, no, I don’t think it’s necessary to be an “environmentalist” to be progressive. For me, say, my first interest in the “environment” is human-related — to curb harmful pollutants in the air, water, and soil, because it’s bad for people. Other than that, I’m more interested in reforms of human institutions, like the legal or prison system, etc & co.

  3. Charles

    I hope there is still room in the Democratic Party for me. I am not a “progressive”
    I am a moderate on economic issues: (I like lower taxes and less government interference in my life) but I believe strongly in asocial safety net.
    I support education, 100%
    I am pro choice
    I am a Conservationist-I believe we can use our natural resources wisely. provide jobs and be better stewards. I don’t believe that every business person wants to rape and pillage. I love roadless lands but think that the folks in the Swan Valley need a place to cut firewood and elderly people need access to wild lands to keep those folks “alive”.
    I believe in private property rights and think that the planning movement has gone much too far.
    I love my guns but can’t stand the NRA
    I support a single payer health system for everyone.
    For the Progressives in Missoula; please don’t go so far left that the Democratic Party can no longer be my home.
    Thank you and everyone have a great day.

    • JC

      I don’t think anybody wants to equate progressivism with being a democrat. Republicans can have some progressive stances. Many dems don’t have progressive takes on issues.

      I’d say that many, many progressives are independents or third party supporters, crossing over to support democrats when their interests intersect.

      Actually, being a progressive probably means not being a lock-step democrat. Which has been the antithesis of conservative ideology until recently, when it became vogue for conservatives to separate themselves from republicanism. This is because the failure of republican politics threatens to destroy their conservative ideology, which had been a lock-step necessity for republicans to get elected.

  4. Big Swede

    What I find interesting is that a “progressive” home and purchases differs only in a small amount to that of a rock ribbed Repub.

    For instance do progressives, as a whole, still drive inefficient cars? Do they own and purchase goods made in other countries with less environmental restrictions than our own?

    Do progressive leaders, lead by example with small environmentally conscience homes, only own stock in green companies?

    And lastly, are progressives too shallow to realize that what’s behind the label more important than the label itself?

    • JC

      You’re trying to use consumerism to confuse the issues. It’s not personal consumer that define a progressive, though many progressives may have different consumer patterns than conservatives.

      Progressivism is issue-based: taking stances on a wide variety of issues.

      But to get back to your assertions, I don’t know where you are drawing your sample of “progressives” by which to make your claims.

      I know many progressives whose home purchases are vastly different than a conservatives.

      More progressives would rather drive a fuel efficient car than not. Most are aware of country of origin, and avoid shopping at the likes of Wal-mart.

      Progressive leaders? How about Obama’s one modest home in Chicago compared to McCain’s 7 (or was that 8) mansions and condos?

      And progressives and brands? Brand marketing is as American as apple pie. But brands stand for nothing if their products have no value. Rather than accuse progressives of being too shallow to see behind the label, one might say that conservatives are too enamored with accruing false value to worthless brands. I can think of a few dozen Wall Street brands pretty easily right about now that fit that bill.

      • Good point about consumerism.

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Obama sticker on the bumper of an SUV while sitting in Costco’s parking lot….wait, wut?

        Do as I say…not as I do! *cough* Al Gore flying around in private jets to warn us all about global warming *cough* Ya gotta love hypocrisy!

        • Big Swede

          Wouldn’t the majority of the voters, last fall, be considered progressive?

          And just where would the majority of those voters shop? Dan’s Free Range Chickens? How about Good Earth Products? Hell no, they’re shopping at Wal Mart, buying goods shipped in containers made by prisoners.

          Rusty’s right, every once and a while they fill up the beat up Chevy Suburban at Costco, even though there, you can’t pick up non union McDonalds pesticide and growth hormone enhanced Happy Meals.

          To be green means more than just advocating nondevelopment and limited mining and manufacturing, but should reflect in your everyday purchases. But more importantly, its the out of country items that you exchange for labors you be the most weary of.

          After all, polar bears just don’t drown north of the 60th parallel.

          • Lizard

            nice to see you have such high standards for progressives, BS. now, maybe try retroactively applying some of the republican standards i’ve heard still exist and sometimes agree with to the past eight years, and we’ll be getting somewhere.

            did you spend this kind of time calling attention to the obscene hypocrisy of Bush’s tenure?

          • JC

            No I don’t think the majority of voters last fall were progressives. I think Obama forged a coalition of progressives, liberals, democrats, and a whole lot of moderate centrists and disillusioned republicans.

            Progressives are a distinct minority in this country.

      • Lizard

        we all operate under varying degrees of hypocrisy unless totally off-the-grid living 100% off the land.

        labels not only function divisively, but become so loaded in the bowels of mainstream media to be counterproductive when uttered.

        in our overly politicized climate of fear, division, and ignorance, it’s easy to call an environmentalist a terrorist, or an anti-war activist unpatriotic, or a republican a warmongering fascist, etc. the only ones who benefit from this situation is the ruling class, who are laughing their asses off as they walk into the sunset with our tax dollars.

        but don’t listen to me, ’cause i think giving control of money printing to a private central bank was the single most destructive thing to happen in this country in the last century, which makes me easy to ignore/dismiss as a conspiracy theorist.

    • Matthew Koehler

      I consider myself a progressive. I also think I care about the environment. When I go into the voting booth, I’m an independent (which is what any true progressive should be in my view). My ballot last fall included “X’s” for candidates that were Democrat, Republican and Libertarian.

      I also suppose I’ll entertain myself on my lunch break by taking Big Swede’s quiz to tell if I’m a progressive or a rock ribbed Republican.

      Still drive inefficient cars? Not really. Main car gets 40 MPG plus. Average about 9,000 miles per year, including some longer work trips. Have an older (93) Toyota truck, but we’ve only put 2,500 miles on it over the past three years (mainly elk, deer and morel hunting trips).

      Own and purchase goods made in other countries with less environmental restrictions than our own? For the most part, we try to purchase as much locally as we can or support decent companies if we can’t find it locally. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule (where the hell is this TV from?) but I assume we do this more than the average person. A sizeable portion of our food comes from Montana (veggies, dairy, pig, fish, wild game, etc). I’ve never once been in a Missoula Wal-Mart and haven’t been in a McDonald’s for 17 years. I’ve even been known, on occasion, to send the wife back to the store to return items that just didn’t pass the muster.

      Do progressive leaders, lead by example with small environmentally conscience homes: Check. 872 square feet on the main floor. Installed plenty of extra insulation, turn off heat at night and keep it set low, no clothes dryer in the house, energy efficient lighting, when we need to purchase new appliances (like replacing the lime green washer or old electric hot water heater) we’ve purchased energy star. Always looking for ways to improve.

      Only own stock in green companies? Check. What little bit we have is in Green Century Fund, a social/enviro screened IRA.

      And lastly, are progressives too shallow to realize that what’s behind the label more important than the label itself? Check: I strive to purchase cloths or goods without a label to be honest. In fact, I regularly cut off/cover up the labels! Didn’t people stop worrying about labels on their clothes in high school anyway?

      Wow, that was a fun quiz. I didn’t see anything on there about not having any kids or having a smaller family? Clearly over-population is a big environmental issue. So…Check, been fixed for about 10 years.

      • Big Swede

        Congrats Matt, you have high creditabilty when speaking on environmental issues.

        Anybody else?

        • Aren’t you the one who snidely asked what Lee Metcalf would do in complete ignorance of what he had done? That doesn’t speak too highly of your own credibility. So please excuse those of us who laugh at your silly attempts at dispensation.

          Swede, sooner or later you will figure out that no one owes you anything in the way of explanation or justification. I look forward to that day, but I won’t hold my breath.

  5. klemz

    I was going to make a quip about a fictional licensing authority, but now I’m worried it might be taken for trolling. So I’ll just say it frankly: These terms are silly.

  6. Lizard

    i think progressive positions have more validity at local/state levels, but as a national movement, progressivism has proved itself gutless by being too willing to compromise with the neoliberal forces who have driven the democratic party obnoxiously to the right.

    i would love to see progressives stake out their own political ground in order to be more effective. the anti-war movement has been horribly co-opted, and now more than ever we need to be very vocal about NOT increasing our military budget as people struggle just to live.

    true progressives should be ready to stand firm against Obama as he bombs Pakistan, keeps troops in Iraq, escalates the Afghanistan war, preserves rendition, and uncritically supports the very dangerous, apartheid policies of Israel.

    the economy, the environment, and our foreign policy are interconnected, which means the progressive movement, if it is to be consequential in affecting the sort of change many of us want to see happen, must take strong positions instead of caving in to empty rhetoric and token gestures from the new CEO of america.

  7. in my early days in the wilderness movement, i would say that our elders were almost always at least half republican. the coal fighting ranchers of montana were republicans….
    but something happened back there in the late seventies and early 80’s where a great divide occurred and since most swings of the pendulem are pushed by a swing too far in another direction it is hard to figure where it all started, but environmentalism was pretty non-partisan until nixon, reagan, and james watt really started the war with his sage-brush rebellion. we still have the war raging and no end in sight. it is too bad. lots of good republicans and democrats and those in between are turned off by the anger from the opposite ends of the spectrum and apathy has built up but it is slowly eroding with a new generation of folks who like to work toward green no matter what party they hail from. i think the trend to label will be less and less prominent as people learn to work together again.

  8. Chuck

    Richard Nixon was the last great Environmentalist President. In 1970 he signed NEPA and throughout his career found a way to compromise with Scoop Jackson and the Democrats to actually pass monumental environmental legislation. This was an era of leadership and action rather then what I see now..obstructionists on both sides.
    Hats off to Richard Nixon , the greatest Environmentalist of our time!

    • this blue collar hat stays on, chuck.

      the term progressive gives me a fairly uncomfortable feeling so i would never use it to describe myself. it sounds a bit too smug and superior. i prefer pragmatic blue-collar independent to progressive, can’t even say i prefer the politics of progressives to the politics of true sane reasoning republicans.
      both believe in personal liberty and frugality.

      the new brand of rabid rush limbaugh ultra-conservative republicans do seem to be dying out and becoming more and more irrelevant as they flail about trying to get us to listen to them. i think we are seeing sane moderate folks of every persuasion coming together volunteering and rolling up their sleeves to rebuild america after the enormous and embarrassing bush years nearly bankrupted this country both spiritually and materially. there is still time. call it what you will, as long as folks are willing to work together for the good of the country then america will be alright again, no matter what you call us.

  9. Mayor of Mayhem

    If you believe that the world will end in Rapture and all believers will be raised to heaven why would you conserve anything on this planet?

    Hardcore conservatives that I know enbrace conservation as just a good idea. Liberals or progressives seem to believe it’s everyones responsibility to leave this planet better off than they found it. The real scary guys are the planet rapers who wrap themselves up in religion and politics and walk around yelling “drill baby drill”.

    Progressive seems to me to be a label liberals gave themselves after the republicans corrupted the term liberal.
    Am I a progressive? You guys are tough. According to Swedes assesment I just don’t fit in. What am I if I ride a 50 mpg Harley and drink Domestic beer and work at a company that makes energy conserving lighting while believing that the U.S.A is the best godamn country ever to exist in the history of the world. I think maybe I’m a libaredneckaservative.

  10. i could care less what hard right conservatives like swede think about anything. far right is so irrelevant now it doesn’t even matter. when they started wishing america would fail i tuned them all out. all 6 of them. they’re just entertaining each other with pot shots now….america is passing them by…volunteering, getting involved in fixing the america they and their party broke over the last 8 years. just gnats and mosquitos round a big bear’s head…..slightly annoying but irrelevant as hell. the more they chime in with their nihilistic negative comments the worse they look.

    can you feel it?

    america is reclaiming it’s soul again after 8 years of repression and fear. spring time in the rockies folks. you can feel the freedom and the love and the consideration for the needs of the less fortunate starting to push little shoots of green up through the asphalt of the corporate pampered and greed and fear dominated amerika that the conservatives worship. pete seeger was right. so many people doing good things for each other. hope is returning to the world and they hate it…..

    • Lizard

      i sure wish reality reflected your optimism, pbear, but it doesn’t. this country is still bleeding resources to maintain its imperial deterrent abroad, and if something drastic happens, any chance to reform health care or preserve social security will be axed immediately.

      i don’t know why more people can’t seem to see that bombing a country we’ve never declared war against, like Pakistan, isn’t just crazy, but fucking stupid. and who can tell me what the hell we’re still doing in Afghanistan?

      oh yeah, and i wouldn’t discount the far right, because their anger is easily channeled by the ideologues they venerate into very self destructive political positions.

  11. Mayor of Mayhem


  12. ladybug

    The progressive label is, well, apparently, as beat up as the “green” label. What’s important, are we making progress? Those who work toward that end are progressive. Ps can be Rs, Ds, Greens, conservatives or liberals, but defending the status quo doesn’t cut it.

  13. Sigh…it’s a process, liz. Stuff takes time. I said reclaiming- not reclaimed…

    You’re more annoying than swede.

    Can’t you feel anything getting better, liz. Even incrementally?

  14. Mayor of Mayhem

    Lizard, It’s easy to find where others have failed. Many of us feel there is real change coming. It’s okay if you disagree. You must live in a pretty dark place.

  15. Lizard

    I would urge anyone who gives half a shit about the future of this country to read Matt Taibbi’s incredible look at what’s happening with Wall Street’s take over.

    yes, pbear, it’s a process alright, and the process of sewing the seeds of this economic collapse has been decades long, and truly bipartisan. read the article, please, because it’s the best summation i’ve read so far about the insanity we’re sanctioning as taxpayers.

    MoM: the dark place where i live is America–an arrogant, broke-ass superpower that can no longer afford to bully the world for the benefit of a few, very greedy corporate/finance thugs, not the best godamn country ever to exist in the history of the world

  16. Pretty big difference between annoying and depressing people with negative comments and encouraging folks with some straight talk and positive reinforcement.

    It’s only been 2 months for pity’s sake.

  17. Lizard

    I assume the reason people are responding to the tone of my comments (annoying, depressing) instead of the substance of my comments is because it’s easier to attack the messenger instead of the message.

    going back to the question posed by this post, sure progressives care about the environment, but who cares about what progressives have to say? certainly not the current administration, or else he would have included some progressive voices in his many appointments.

    what we are witnessing with this sad state of affairs is a continuity between out of touch ruling elites who will do anything to keep those golden parachutes deploying at the risk of bringing down what was once the most robust economy in existence, and they’re doing a pretty smash up job.

    yes, i think there will be great opportunities to reimagine and rebuild how we work and live in this country, but before the rebuilding can begin, we have to accurately identify what’s broken, and why it’s broken, or we risk making the same tired mistakes.

  18. Mayor of Mayhem

    Lizard,The “broke ass superpower” where you live beats the shit out of anywhwere else in the world.
    We have produced steel, and cars, and heart transplants, computers, the internet, polio vaccines, aircraft, harley davidsons and rock and roll. We have won 2 world wars, (beating the shit out of some evil nazi voodoo bastards). We have consistently out produced any other country in the world at every godamn thing there is. Our country has created more millionaires and raised our own standard of living to the highest for the largest percentage of our population.
    Have we lost our way? Maybe. Can we correct our course? definately. I agree that a few very rich very greedy individuals have crashed our country. I also think that occupying someone else’s country has always ended badly for the occupiers. Obama has had 2 months to correct thirty+ years of bad policy. Can we maybe give him a year before we start the revolution?

  19. Mayor of Mayhem

    Lizard, I do agree that a serious assesment of what’s broken is in order. Then a judgement of the system that created these pricks is needed. I hope that is in the big picture for Obama’s administration. I suspect, like you, that the guilty will walk. I just hope future policy makes it harder to “bring down the most robust economy in existence”

  20. Lizard

    Lizard, I do agree that a serious assesment of what’s broken is in order

    that’s all I’m tying to do. but i’m too serious for some, especially when i say things like the age of american exceptionalism is over, and those who cling to the remnants of a dying system will be obstructions those of us moving forward will have to clear away as we hopefully evolve.

    the robust economy of a country that helped win two world wars has been reduced to a weapons/service/derivative economy that profits by killing and has spread financial rot threatening to topple the global economy.

    the way forward is supporting regional economies without the expectation that resources are infinite and all growth is good. unfortunately i think our predicament has to get worse before enough people are ready to accept this reality, and that’s too bad, because it just prolongs the inevitable.

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