[Written by Helen Aki, with contributions from Rachel Barge, Alisha Fowler, Lindsey Franklin, and Jesse Jenkins.]
Over the past few days, controversy has been stirred up on “It’s Getting Hot In Here” over a number of posts written by members of Breakthrough Generation, a new progressive youth organization founded by the Breakthrough Institute. While the controversy has focused on perceptions of Breakthrough’s agenda, it reflects a larger question, which is: what is the role of conflict and debate in terms of forming an effective movement for change? This post is my attempt to illuminate Breakthrough’s intent in sparking such debate, as well as to address this larger question. In the spirit of dialogue and growth, I look forward to your critical and substantive responses.
Here in Oakland, for the past week and a half, we fellows have been vigorously pointing out the flaws and weaknesses of the Breakthrough Institute: everything from time wasted arguing with environmentalists, who aren’t really our enemies, to insisting that Breakthrough needs to garner more public support, make the movement bigger, and clarify our mission statement. I think each of the fellows could speak at length about what they would like Breakthrough to do better or differently, and what things they take issue with.
To the credit of Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, the Breakthrough founders: they’ve welcomed our criticisms, listened to us, and done a good job responding to our various concerns. What has been curious to me since the beginning is this: the thirteen fellows who sit in the Breakthrough office every morning, reading and writing and engaging in dialogue with an intensity that astonishes me after two years of college classes, are all here because we resonate strongly with the message of “The Death of Environmentalism” and the Break Through book. We’re here because we believe in it.
So why are we so eager to critique Breakthrough: its strategy, its rhetoric, and its accomplishments? And if we are internally conflicted, how can we hope to convince those who might already be skeptical or downright disagree with us? Does it bode ill that the thirteen people most convinced by and committed to the ideas and visions set forth by Breakthrough are still full of doubts, questions, and concerns?
Absolutely not. Because we care, because we are committed, we are critical. When it comes to ideas, strategies, and paradigms, conflict—the right kind of conflict—is good. Productive. It’s probably even essential to getting it right. Continue reading ‘Does Unity Demand Uniformity of Thought?’