07/14/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Field Guide to the New Enviromentalists

Lord knows we have tried, Al Gore has tried, so may have tried to sell climate change as the big issue of the day. Unfortunately, poll after poll now shows that the price and availability of fuel has taken over. Peak Oil, Peak Food, Peak Everything are immediate concerns, while the climate crisis is sometime in the future. So how do we convey a message to people who care more about other things? Who are we talking to out there?

The new Alfred E Neumans

It is the boomer mantra- What, Me Worry? We might as well drill, drill, drill every inch of the continental shelf and the Arctic because the real effects will happen after we are gone, and in the meantime we won't need to look for our sweaters. We are what Joe Romm calls Climate Delayers, waiting for the "real science" to be settled, by which time we will have filled up our Escalades and died.

The New Narcissists

It's all about me. If gas is expensive I will complain about it and demand cheaper gas. If the roads are clogged I will demand transit- to clear the roads so that I can drive. If my monster house is too expensive to heat and nobody wants it, I want subsidies and my mortgage recalibrated. None of this was my fault, and the American way of life is non-negotiable.

The New Apocalypsians

The end of the world is actually a GOOD thing, and the Middle East is a big part of it. So let's just keep driving, pray that Saudi Arabia pumps more gas, and hope that this brings us to a dramatic rapturous conclusion.

The New Survivalists

Time to find our little piece of real estate, stake out the territory, grow our own vegetables and oil our gun. According to the New York Times, "People should "assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food," It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson. Even in America and Europe there could be moments of riot and rebellion when law and order temporarily completely breaks down." Just make sure that your land won't get flooded out or turn to desert. And that you have a high-speed internet connection.

The New Frugalists

They compete to see who can re-patch their underthings and wear them the longest. To use less of everything. Role models are the WW2 British stalwarts with their victory gardens; Elizabeth Renzetti writes in the Globe and Mail: "It's easy to see why wartime thrift is enjoying such a vogue: It's virtuous, it's green, and you're going to lose weight eating soup made from parsnips that you pulled from your victory garden. There's a great appeal to Keira Knightley's Atonement wardrobe of skinny evening gowns and noble nurse's uniforms."

The New Jacobins

Its pointless to change your lightbulb or stop using plastic bags, they are irrelevant and won't make any difference. "Spending too much energy on relatively marginal changes "is a diversion from greater acceptance of the need for more radical environmental change in our democracies." We have to man the barricades and start a revolution. Except revolution is messy and dangerous, so we will build a website instead.

The New Rationalists

We can go on (and did) about McMansions and SUVs and even compact fluorescents, but when electricity costs double and fuel hits four bucks a gallon, the market quickly does what four years of green whining couldn't. The New Rationalists are not moved by pictures of stranded polar bears or concerned about climate change, but know when it's time to ride a bike, get a smaller place closer to work, install a solar panel and insulate the attic. They are not going green to get rich as David Bach suggests, they are going green to survive.

The New Hippies

As we noted in our review of Alastair Gordon's Spaced Out, Past is prologue; Once again people are growing their own food, practicing voluntary simplicity, thinking about how to build with recycled materials, setting up modern versions of communes. Except instead of growing marijuana, they are making cheese.