Likening it to the transformation of the bodybuilding industry more than three decades ago, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said environmentalists and the environmental movement have improved their image, and they are getting more help and respect as a result. The former world bodybuilding legend and movie action figure made the comparison at a United Nations (UN) meeting in New Zealand via satellite last Tuesday.

He used the analogy to make his frequent emphasis that California, the United States and the world can protect the environment while also protecting regional, national and global economies. Schwarzenegger continues to make this point even in the midst of California’s and the U.S. economies currently suffering from the downturn tied to the subprime mortgage credit crunch and sky-high global energy prices.

“I believe that the environmental movement is switching over from being powered by guilt to being powered by something much more positive, something much more dynamic, something much more capable of bringing about revolutionary change, and that new fuel is innovation,” Schwarzenegger told a UN World Environment Day business symposium in Auckland, New Zealand.

“Combined with the new image that is cutting edge and sexy, the momentum is surging. Oh, yes, I can see it all over the place in California; we are doing everything that we can to nurture that change.”

Like the pre-1970s bodybuilders whose image was sullied and “terrible,” in Schwarzenegger’s words, environmentalists have had “kind of an image problem” of being labeled as “weirdos or tree huggers,” according to the governor. It was spawned because of the use of guilt to get people to change their ways, he said.

“But people are not going to give up their energy-burning plasma TVs or their cars or the opportunities to grow their businesses out of guilt,” Schwarzenegger said. “That’s not going to happen because guilt is passive; it is inhibiting, it is defensive, and that approach just simply does not work.”

While repeating all of the things that his administration in California has been doing to respond to climate change impacts, Schwarzenegger told his international audience that the challenges and opportunities are global in scope, noting that just like the earlier industrial, technological and global revolutions, next the world likely will see an “Environmental Revolution.”

He challenged business leaders around the world to “seize the opportunity to be part of the environmental revolution.”

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