American Media & the Green Movement: Questions for Readers to Ponder

treehugger graham hill photo
In case you weren't among the fifty or so people who attended 92Y Tribeca's panel discussion on American Media & the Green Movement last night, I just wanted to pass along some of the questions that popped into my mind as I listened to Annabelle Gurwitch pick the brains of green luminaries such as NPR's Ira Flatow, the New York Times' Andy Revkin, author Elizabeth Royte, Lynne Kirby of the Sundance Channel and TreeHugger's very own Graham Hill.

I present this all in the form of questions that I'd like readers to consider and weigh in upon:

1. How Do We Engage Our Children in Green?
The sort of paradigm shift which is required to build a sustainable culture for a planet overloaded with homo sapiens it seems one of the most critical questions is how do we engage our children in this change? How do we communicate the seriousness of the situation in a way that holds their attention and creates the sort of values that can build a new future?2. How Do We Define a "Decent Life"?
Intended I think as offhand description, at least twice Andy Revkin brought up what I think is the overarching green question (and one which no one wants to address): What is a decent life, in terms of natural resource consumption (read: using 'stuff')? As it's an ecological impossibility that the ecological footprint of the average person in a developed nation can be scaled to all of those people in poorer nations without cleaning out the planet's natural resource bank account, how do we make the cultural shift (in the developed world) to simply using less stuff? Buying less clothing and shoes? Buying fewer electronic devices? Eating lower on the food chain?

The luxuries of generations past (even those of ten years ago) are considered necessities now and that has to shift, but how do we do this?

3. How Do We Not Turn People Off to the Seriousness of the Situation?
While it sometimes seems my stock and trade is in seriousness, there is a real issue of not overloading people with doom and gloom. We obviously don't want to create a fatalistic mindset of 'well, I can't do anything so I might as well party up'. (Though, I've always thought that mindset to be an entirely perplexing reaction, akin to wondering why the stereotypical famous musician trashes hotel rooms...) So, how do we find the balance between scaring people into action, convincing them action is needed, and not creating a feeling of hopelessness? We need to get beyond top 10 lists, but what's the next logical step?

4. How Do We Get People to See the Forest and the Trees?
Ira Flatow brought up an interesting point: Sometimes when you look strictly at the numbers you come up with some counter-intuitive results. He gave the example (I presume hypothetical, don't know if anyone's actually tested this) that intuitively you might think that walking, rather than driving your car, to get some food at the store is always the best option, in terms of energy expended. However, if you just look at the energy consumed in the action of getting that food, the car may come out ahead. (Debate that if you like, but that's not the point...)

Andy Revkin and Elizabeth Royte chimed in that it's not that simple: That there are other advantages to walking beyond the strict utility of getting food, and expanded it out the myriad arguments in favor of local agriculture that go beyond strictly looking at the amount of energy consumed or absolute crop yields. There are many things under the umbrella of green that can be seen in that way: local agriculture, the value in walkable communities, localized manufacturing... I'm sure you can think of others.

So how do we get people to take the broader perspective? How do we get people to at the same time be able to balance the simple comparison of a being more efficient/using less energy/being on the surface greener than b, with greater social, cultural, and holistically green issues?

Opening image: TreeHugger founder Graham Hill showing off his Strida folding bicycle, post-panel discussion. Photo: 92Y Tribeca.
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