Michael Shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger is a managing partner of American Environics and director of The Breakthrough Institute. The Death of Environmentalism and the Birth of a New American Politics will be published in fall 2006 by Houghton Mifflin.

Recent Articles

Beyond Kyoto

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last January, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that one of his top priorities as chairman of the Group of Eight industrialized countries would be to rally the G8 to action on global warming. Unspoken in that announcement, but obvious to all, was Blair's intention to target President George W. Bush, who in 2001 withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol regulating greenhouse gas emissions. As world leaders convened last July, there was much anticipation over what kind of agreement the G8 would reach. By the end of the summit, it was clear that Blair's hopes had been dashed. The White House succeeded in so watering down the G8's communiqué on global warming that it ended up being weaker than the statement President Bush's father had signed 13 years before. Then, in August, the White House announced its alternative to the Kyoto Protocol: the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate. A Downing Street...

Death Warmed Over

James Howard Kunstler begins The Long Emergency , his new book warning that the world is running out of oil, by quoting psychologist Carl Jung as saying, “People cannot stand too much reality.” The quote is wrongly attributed. It was T.S. Eliot who said, “Humankind cannot stand too much reality.” But the quote and the Jungian slip speak volumes about Kunstler and kindred, well-intentioned progressive authors. Like Jared Diamond's Collapse , which purports to explain why once-powerful societies are driven into extinction, and Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? , which faulted Kansans for failing to grasp their own economic self-interest, Kunstler's book contends that the ignorant masses are suffering from what the left used to call false-consciousness -- in this case, about energy consumption. For the people to be saved, they presumably must let go of their irrational consumer, religious, or ideological fantasies and start recognizing their true self-interest. When this kind of...

Marla's Law

Last Saturday my friend Marla Ruzicka was killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. Just 28 years old, Marla was one of only a handful of foreign human-rights workers to set foot in Iraq this year. A lot has been written about Marla's effervescence, her courage, and the way that she wore her heart on her sleeve. Far less has been said about how her canny approach to advancing the military's responsibility to civilians has the potential to change the future of warfare. In a way, Marla has been as underestimated in her death as she was in her life. I'll be the first to admit that I failed to fully understand and appreciate the political importance of her work when she was alive. Several times over the last few days I've asked myself: Why didn't I do more to help her while she was still alive? Why didn't I get the big picture? Not that what she was doing didn't amaze me: documenting civilian injuries and deaths while, at the same time, successfully working with U.S. military commanders to...

Brave Green World

Green architect Bill McDonough is on a roll. Ever since he persuaded Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford Jr. in 1999 to hire him to oversee the $2 billion rebuild of a factory complex, McDonough has been on the road constantly, giving motivational talks about his grass-roofed and sun-drenched factories and speeches that compare conventional buildings with toxic off-gassing -- a process by which the chemicals in a product turn into gas that humans can breathe -- to the Nazis' gas chambers. McDonough denounces ill-conceived design and pollution with the passion of the late David Brower and the confidence of Ayn Rand's Howard Roark. His promotional DVD is narrated by Susan Sarandon and includes executives gushing praise for his work. Ford calls McDonough "one of the most profound environmental thinkers in the world." The publication of McDonough's new book -- Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press, 2002) -- has provided occasion for publications from Business Week...