A Man with a Plan: Andrew Revkin on the Environment

Andrew Revkin, science and environmental writer for The New York Times, is a man with a plan.

“We have to shift how we shape our goals,” Revkin said when he addressed Miami University Monday Sept. 15. The “goals” to which he referred are the intangible standards for the environment set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations concerned for the environment.

Revkin said that instead of looking at numbers and trying to set deadlines, society needs to have a tractable plan – one that focuses less on percentage this and year that, and more on specific, regional and national traits.

He broke his plan down into eight simple words: bend, stretch, reach, teach, reveal, reflect, rejoice and repeat.

Bend – have the ability to adjust, to soften.

Stretch – integrate science into the community and other aspects of everyday life.

Reach – spread the word.

Teach – education, especially in underdeveloped areas, is essential.

Reveal – transparency, exposure, show rather than tell.

Reflect – assess the data, view changes over time.

Rejoice – appreciate the beautiful earth and everything is does for you

Repeat – discipline in all aspects

Revkin’s plan to begin environmental change does not have goal numbers or a time frame. Instead, he said change can come from small acts, small lifestyle changes and everyone has a role to make this world a better place.

His speech did not send a negative message to the audience about the future, but rather, put a positive spin on the state of the environment. There are opportunities to make things better, there a things to work on and to work toward, changes can be made.

But enacting change, Revkin said, is much more difficult than coming up with a plan, “It takes engagement,” he said, “it takes this weird combination of patience and urgency,” and he realized that information by itself is not enough.

“I could spend the rest of my life writing these articles and nothing would happen,” he said. It was the hardest lesson for him to learn as a journalist.

In his profession – particularly dealing with environmental science – he comes across people with contrasting views all the time. Some who assert that the environmental cause is simply propaganda, some who think it will end the world and some who are apathetic either way. Rather than accepting this differences as a hindering difficulty to his work, Revkin decided to embrace opposing views.

“We have to get used to variety. Diversity is your friend.” He encourages discourse, claiming we need the mix of it all to come up with the right solutions. We need the activists and the scientists, those who see this as a dire problem and those who wish everyone would stop talking about it.

Revkin, along with writing for the Times’ Dot Earth Blog, has written pieces for Science Digest and Discover magazine among others. He authored three books and hopes to write a fourth, and is the author of the documentary, “Arctic Rush.”

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