Will the Real Green Movement Please Stand Up?


Photo Credit of Henry Paulson: Goodman/VanRiper Photography

The economy is crashing all around us, but the green movement is offering a bright ideas to rebuild the United States. But should we trust the call for a green economy? The last ten years saw a rebirth of excitement for the environment as huge amounts of debt mounted. Maybe the two are connected - and the brave new green world is a promise we can't cash. The new face of the green movement is a sign of how environmentalism has changed during the last ten years. What was once the crusade of people like David Suzuki and Robert Kennedy Jr is now the careers of fresh faced neo-greenies. The last decade has also seen a dramatic shift in economic systems. Green technologies, building, fashion and innovations are now opportunities for growth where once they were seen as just a way to destroy the jobs of loggers.

Something New, Something Old, Something Smells
The great bridge that brought environmentalism out of the cultural wastelands and into the role of societal influencer was a combination of three factors:
1. revamped terminology; for example, what was once called conservation is now called efficiency such as energy efficiency or water efficiency,

2. retooled the movement from a regulatory fight into a market-driven commodity and

3. provided real-world examples of how green can look and function such as the famous Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College and Four Time Square.

These three adjustments helped mainstream the once-counterculture movement. And with it, green got a lot bigger and a lot of good press. Green buildings save energy, organic cotton is less toxic, organic foods don't make you sick, renewable energy doesn't produce carbon how could anyone argue with these points? Rebuilding America would put millions of people to work and help bring equilibrium to the climate — that's the story at least. There's not a working model that shows exactly how it would work — but for most people, it's not the technical details that are important. We're all buying into the vision.

Yet, shouldn't we be asking more questions? It's not in the nature of the green movement to question itself, and for good reason. To get green in the mainstream has been a struggle till now. As recent as 2001, the majority of Americans didn't want to hear about green this or that. But maybe it's time to start looking deeper at what green is and isn't. The biggest question isn't whether green solutions do what they claim. That's been addressed. I think the first central question is - was the rise of green a result of the failing economy? Is it possible that green has become the newest and greatest option for societal change by way of the dysfunctional global financial system, the same financial system that's threatening the standing of the United States? And if so, should we be listening to Al Gore, Barack Obama, Tom Friedman and the hundreds of others banking on the new green economy to save us?

The way green has succeeded this time versus in the 1960's and 70's showcases a shift of focus to different issues and methods as I mentioned above. The story is that the old way wasn't working and that the only way to save the planet was to mainstream environmentalism. Mind you, the mainlining of environmentalism isn't the same as the old school environmentalism that was heavy into endangered species, habitat, environmental justice, the rainforests and water|air quality. A new school came about from the "ashes" to sell you stuff so you could be green by not redirecting your life - side note — the truth is that regulatory measures didn't just work, they prevented the extinction of many species and created avenues for hundreds of sq miles of forest to be saved.

Next: The role of green products and services

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