Monday, April 16, 2007

Getting over green

First off, let me say that I believe that the global drive for consumption has led to dangerous conditions for climate change that may end in catastrophe in some uncertain future. Let me say also that I believe that we, both people and governments, can take some major steps to start reducing our negative impact on the planet and possibly avert some of that catastrophe.

As a believer then, I must be happy about the fact that the issue is getting so much press, creating a buzz that will surely lead to serious action finally being taken to be more responsible with the environmental side effects of consumer capitalism. And I am. I am happy to see a “Green Issue” of a newspaper or magazine focusing on the state of the planet, raising awareness everywhere, making the issue positively trendy.

There are two problems, however: the issue is being trivialized and commoditized, and the second evolution of the debate has not yet occurred. By the first point, I mean attaching the word “green” to anything as a marketing strategy. Magazines promoting a special “Green Issue” to show how pioneering they are by publishing a story about a salmon spawning ground that has been dried up just trivializes the whole subject. Green, environmentally-friendly, ideas are fundamentally important to ensure a better future for our children, and must be permanently in the public debate. Making them the subject of a “special issue” implies that one issue of a magazine can present the whole debate, and also suggests that such stories do not belong in the regular circulation. If a magazine really wanted to show how green it was, it would take a month off, saving the thousands of trees that are destroyed to create one installment of a major monthly magazine.

The second point is, I think, the most important: critical analysis of the green movement in all its forms, a necessary precursor to begin expanding on workable solutions to the world’s environmental problems. What these “green issues” have done is brought climate change into the mainstream, generally alerting people to the undeniable fact that there is a problem with the way we treat the Earth. Ok, the ball is rolling. We no longer need to convince everyone of what is happening or praise anything that can be given an environmental spin.

What we need now is to focus the debate on the serious issues, looking critically at the green movement. What green strategies actually work to reduce pollution? What strategies and initiatives really make a difference and which ones are just for image or marketing purposes? We need to answer these questions in order to make sure that the “green” label is not co-opted by any misanthrope looking to cash in on the global trend towards environmentally-friendly production. Because if that is allowed to happen, then all we can expect is stagnation, procrastination, and ultimately failure in addressing the problems that we have already created.