“Going Green” and the Trivialization of the Conscientious Ecologist

[posted by guest blogger Tycho. “I sometimes write stuff I think about.”]

In the recent months and years, the topic of protecting the environment, reducing pollution and toxic emissions has gone from being the subject of oft-called fringe environmental fanatics to being the hot topic du-jour. Not a day goes by without “experts”, politicians and even daytime talk-show hosts proselytizing the virtues of environmental conscientiousness, toppling over each other in the frantic exercise to alert us, their dear, direction-bereft consumers and constituents, of our nature-destroying ways.

Allow me to preface all this by saying that those who know me, know my fringe-fanatical inclinations; not in the sense that I preoccupy my speck of the world with the relentless pursuit of environmental harmony, but that I’d much rather do my part for the crazy-club than wish somebody else dealt with the problem.

The thunderous arrival of the environmental hot potato was inevitable, and now that it is here, everyone is clamoring for a bite of its predictably acrid yet unexpectedly sweet nectar. It appears people do, in fact, care to hear and learn and act for the sake of our good natured Mother Earth. All isn’t without merit, of course, people spent decades trying to explain to us the consequences of our errant ways, and it is about time we listened and did something about it.

I am amused when thinking of the challenge our popular media, our politicians, TV stations, the puppet-masters of humanity’s comedy faced when confronted with the reality of our environmental problem. It’s not that they didn’t know how to present a sad, sordid, depressing story, nor that it wasn’t for a good cause, but what was the urgency? When could they dictate to us when to expect the unexpected? What heroes could we rely on to enshrine in a new category of honorifics and adulation? Will the ice melt tomorrow? Can we call the Enviropolice for a press conference in front of microphones and concerned citizens asking questions from the back of the elementary school classroom designated as headquarters for the looming catastrophe? Fear not, consumers and constituents, the solution is far more cunning. Somebody, somewhere, realized the potential for the story which has no finality, which is an endless, bottomless pit of news, hysteria and accolades. I am only waiting for the rousing music and immersive graphical titles to roll onto CNN announcing the start of their next segment: War on Pollution, daily at 8pm.

Until then, the sharply witted PR intern that is probably equally responsible for gems such as “blog”, “Web 2.0” and “metrosexual” has come up with an incredible new strategy, and a hip 21st Century term for it: “Going Green”. I must admit the first time I heard it I did not think twice, my consumerist idleness allowing this new ploy to work itself into my subconscious. In fact, I began to hear it all the time, each instance with more zeal. Everyone is “Going Green”. What a fantastic thing to hear! Every evening a new corporation, your local community, your favorite actor – they are all “Going Green”! It’s the sound of a million news stories waiting to be told, to announce when and how someone I absolutely must know about has taken this course of action. It’s the new vehicle to admiration and forgiveness for your past environmental sins. You spilled toxins in the lake? You never recycled your beverage bottles? You didn’t even know you can recycle your canned food containers? Just “Go Green”. Things will be OK. If you’re famous, it won’t just be OK, they will have you on the evening entertainment news, people will listen to you at concerts and nod their head when you explain how you will right your wrongs.

What happened to the fringe environmental fanatic? Where is his seat at this new party? He tried to “Go Green”, but he didn’t have anything to show for it. She already recycled everything she could. He made sure to buy just the size of car that suited his needs. They worked through their summer to plant trees, raise awareness and argued with your politicians to spend money on studying the climate. They “Went Green”, but the Evening News wasn’t there to notice. The TV station is now busy showing me the latest multi-national, century-old corporation I should admire because yesterday they told the press they are “Going Green”.

And so this remarkable movement, the awareness and actions that have been brought forth through years of hard work by climatologist and environmentalists, researchers and unpopular politicians has been turned into the latest concoction for us to consume, trivialized with a new buzz-phrase and its analysis in popular culture stifled and placated by the presence of a superficial feel-good formula. I can only hope the forgotten, conscientious ecologist “Stays Green”.

[Tycho is not technically a blogger though he is technically a guest. He is also a friend to Crowfoot but has only posted one comment here in all this time. He is also clearly immune to guilt trips by said friend :-p]

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