The Green movement in America has lost its way. Congress has not passed a major piece of environmental legislation for a quarter century. Environmentalists declared climate to be their top priority, but could not bring a carbon cap-and-trade bill to a vote, even with Democrats in control of Congress. For conservative Republicans, anti-environmentalism has become an article of faith. Pew polling reveals that the environment is one of two things about which Republicans and Democrats disagree most. How did this happen, and what can be done?
The book starts by telling the story of American conservation’s conservative roots, and the bipartisan political consensus that had Republican congressmen voting for, and Richard Nixon signing, the most important environmental legislation of the 1970s. It then narrates the gradual loss of that consensus and its replacement with the “Great Estrangement”: a conservative movement dominated by those deeply suspicious of Green goals and hostile to virtually all policies advocated by environmentalists; and a Green movement that all too often appears hostile to business and economic growth.
The book argues that getting the Green movement back on track requires change in three main areas. First, instead of giving up on conservatives, we must seek to reconnect a critical mass of moderates and conservatives with their long tradition of support for conservation. Second, to succeed in the next fifty years, environmentalism needs a coherent, strong, and sustainable rationale, and one that answers the charge that Greens care more about nature than they do about people. And finally, the modern Green movement, which is now a half-century old, must look honestly at its own failings and limitations, and get its house in order for the challenges ahead. This includes putting to rest the old Green refrain that economic growth and big corporations are the enemy.
Getting to Green argues that the Great Estrangement will not end with conservative capitulation to the compelling urgency of the Green agenda; instead, the Green movement will need to listen to conservatives, take a few steps in their direction, and focus on that space where the values of right and left overlap, which the book calls “Center Green.” Center Green takes as its model the national land trust movement, a corner of environmentalism that has succeeded in maintaining vigorous bipartisan support. Center Green is a modest change in approach rooted in the way America is, not a utopian vision of what it could become. It is, above all, pragmatic and non-ideological, where policy is measured not by whether it is the optimum solution, but by the two-part test of whether it would make a meaningful contribution to an environmental problem, and whether it is achievable politically. Application of the Center Green approach results in positions on climate change, fracking, Keystone XL, and other current issues that differ significantly from the orthodoxies of contemporary environmentalism.
"Thoughtful, sharp examination of the issues...Essential reading for anyone with a stake in the environmental debate."
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Clear, thorough...strong analysis [and] concise...This informative, fair, probing, and heartfelt book should enliven all environmental debates."
— Booklist, starred review
“I want to recommend the book because honestly in Getting to Green, your optimism is infectious, and even better, your optimism is logical...[The book is] full of practical solutions, and, I have to say, the book is as enjoyable as it is important.”
—John Fugelsang, SiriusXM
"This is the most reasoned, rational discussion of...environmental problems...a powerful burst of fresh air. It is a positive message that raises hope."
"This country is ripe for a new era of pragmatic problem solving. Rich's prescription for ending partisan gridlock on the environment is sensible, based on our shared values as Americans. Tightly argued and persuasive, Getting to Green is mandatory reading for anyone who cares about climate change, or about fixing the dysfunction in government."
— U.S. Senator Evan Bayh
"My fellow environmental leaders may not agree with every word, but we ignore this book at our peril. It never occurred to Teddy Roosevelt that Republicans should oppose conservation, and Getting to Green persuasively argues that conservatives still should support the responsible stewardship of nature. With a career at the highest levels of global capitalism and as a greatly respected environmental leader, Fred Rich is in a unique position to bring the right and left together to find practical solutions to our environmental challenges."
— Rand Wentworth, President, Land Trust Alliance
"Rich rethinks the foundations and rewrites the playbook of the American green movement. In an exploration that is by turns history lesson, political commentary, philosophical analysis, and campaign strategy session, he succeeds in showing that one of the most angrily contested topics in contemporary politics could be, if we can reset some the basic rules of communication, a place of deep and meaningful consensus. Rich's stimulating book is both a challenging and well-informed examination of a very important contemporary issue and an insightful starting point, one might hope, for a broad reconsideration of many other issues that now divide us."
— Gregory E. Kaebnick, The Hastings Center, author of Humans in Nature
"As someone who believes in putting governance ahead of politics, I welcome this call to transcend the partisanship that has stood in the way of urgently needed action on climate change and the environment. Regardless of your place on the political spectrum, there is much to admire in this book, which reminds us that the stewardship of nature is an obligation shared by all Americans."
— U.S. Senator Angus S. King, Jr. (Independent)
"Dare conservatives ask, 'Can free enterprise solve climate change?' and dare progressives imagine something more efficient than a regulatory solution? If as Fred Rich suggests we come together around shared values like love, wisdom and compassion, then taking action on climate change, now seemingly impossible, will become inevitable without ever passing through the probable. Getting to Green shows the way: Conservatives need to be welcomed as the indispensible partners for action on climate and other environmental issues."
— Bob Inglis, six-term GOP Congressman from South Carolina defeated for changing his view on climate change; winner of 2015 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award
"The environmental and conservation communities must learn to work together, as they once did, if we are to successfully safeguard our natural resources for the future. Getting to Green presents a thoughtful analysis of where the Green movement is today, and a compelling case for what Greens must do to regain broad public support. Whether you are an environmentalist or conservationist, liberal or conservative, you must read this book."
— Simon Roosevelt, founder, Conservation Roundtable; author of American Hunting and Conservation (forthcoming); great-great grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt
What Do Ordinary Readers Say?
"If I had the power to make everyone read one book, I think I might spend that power on this book...Green needs to be a center issue, not a progressive one, because that's the only way anything will every get done. It's the only way we're ever going to succeed; all the greatest achievements in environmentalism's history were done by reaching across the aisle and finding common cause. And although it might seem impossible to imagine in an era of Trumpism, I think that we can rediscover the ability to work together. And this book was instrumental in helping me arrive at that conclusion. I'm ready to work towards Center Green. And I think that, if you read this book, you will most likely feel the same."
—Goodreads reviewer, July 27, 2016
"[T]his is the most reasoned, rational discussion of the development of solutions to the environmental problems...a powerful burst of fresh air. It is a positive message that raises hope, for the solutions are believable, and generally achievable. Both of the groups on the extremes should read the book and take the contents very seriously."
—Goodreads reviewer, May 24, 2016
"This is a must read for anybody who is interested in how we got into such a mess with dealing with our environment. It doesn't matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, for or against you should read this book...He really helps you understand how we have gotten where we are - grid lock - and tells the things we need to do to start moving forward in a positive direction with both sides on board."
—Amazon reviewer, May 27, 2016