For decades, the environmental movement focused on despair: the next extinct animal, the latest eco-disaster, the uphill plight to save a threatened landscape against big money and bought-off politicians. That mentality can’t help but persist in this era of climate change, ocean acidification, and the last white rhino, but there is a new wave of environmental leaders working to bring hope and forward motion back to the equation.
Peter Alagona is one such voice. A professor of history, geography, and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Alagona is often the first teacher that an incoming first-year student meets, thanks to his fall-quarter class Introduction to Environmental Studies, which gives him the power to inspire like few others. But he’s also spearheading an effort to assess whether grizzly bears should be brought back to California, researching a book on how wildlife is thriving in American cities, and working to highlight environmental efforts that are cause for applause rather than tears, including the UC Natural Reserve System, which he helps manage.