Why We Can Do It
Don't believe the hype: the future is bright. The success of Environmental Progress in winning hearts and changing minds proves it. Now watch what happens next.
Not that long ago ago it appeared that most of the trends relating to the issues that Environmental Progress and I care about were headed in the wrong direction. Congress was poised to pour more subsidies into renewables at the expense of nuclear energy. San Francisco and other big cities were locked into progressive dogma around drugs, crime, and homelessness. And many journalists were repeating outmoded and debunked orthodoxies about everything from energy and the environment to drugs and homelessness.
All of that has changed dramatically over the last few weeks. Senator Joe Manchin killed Build Back Better legislation citing the risk of the United States becoming overly dependent on renewables. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a crackdown on open air drug use and drug dealing. And mainstream news media are increasingly acknowledging the essential role of nuclear energy, the limits of weather-dependent energies, and rising crime and violence.
Not everything is going our way. Many progressives argue that Manchin’s concern has been more about protecting the coal industry from competition than protecting cheap and reliable electricity from price spikes and blackouts. Progressives on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors weakened Breed’s crackdown by preventing expanded police funding. And mainstream news media refuse to accurately cover rising resilience to climate change, or acknowledge the need for a Shelter First policy to dealing with homelessness.
But those are small steps backward compared to the progress we are making going forward. Manchin last week gave lie to the claim that he only cares about coal when he announced support for expanding support for nuclear power plants, none of which exist in West Virginia. “I’m big on nuclear,” he told reporters. The New York Times yesterday published a long interview with Mayor Breed where she harshly criticized progressives as out-of-touch elitists. And progressive newspapers like The Los Angeles Times, and some progressive academics, are finally acknowledging that drug addiction is a major driver of homelessness, and that police are essential to preventing crime.
And many of the arguments that Environmental Progress and I have made are becoming mainstream. New polling shows that public support for nuclear power grew from 49% to 59% between 2018 and 2021 while support among Democrats grew from 37% to an astonishing 60%. Translations of Apocalypse Never have recently won top awards in Israel, Sweden, and South Korea, and a German version of Apocalypse Never will be published in March. And, in a sign of growing receptivity to our message, San Francisco’s liberal Commonwealth Club invited me to speak about San Fransicko at a public talk on Monday, January 24, which most characters from the book will attend, and whose afterparty will inspire greater collaboration.
There is great pessimism in the U.S. and the developed world as a whole about the future of America and humankind, but EP has a plan to take our work to the next level, and achieve significant changes to collective thinking and public policies. What does that look like? How will we achieve those goals? And why will we be able to? Those are important questions to ask, particularly in the month of January, a time traditionally dedicated to reflecting on the past as a guide to creating the future.
Looking Back to Look Forward
There is a tendency among public intellectuals, particularly when feeling insecure, to seek out information that reinforces our existing beliefs, to change our views in order to get along with people around us, and to only associate with people in our tribe. It is difficult to remain loyal to the truth when so many people around you are threatened in one way or another by it. Admitting that you were wrong, and saying unpopular things, require, on the one hand, great self-confidence and, on the other, great humility.