They say that “Green is the new Black!”- and they are quite right! Green is the biggest thing to hit the shelves in my lifetime. The reality of a looming environmental crisis has affected our society, but between the self-destructing present and a sustainable future lies the green movement. It used to seem to me like a pathway from one to the other- but I am starting to have my doubts.
Perhaps it started this year as I attended the MN Living Green Expo (LGE) this spring. I have attended this event for 5 or so years, and always have found things to challenge me- encountering people and ideas that spur me on, inspire my imagination toward a more healthy relationship with the natural world. And while I feel like I have been making progress, this year it felt like the LGE was heading in the opposite direction. Could it have been the over-sized exhibit by America’s leading authority on environmental activism: Wal-Mart? (I have learned enough about environmentalism over the years to be highly suspicious of this corporation!) I did find a few pearls at the LGE this year, but for the first time I drove away disappointed. It felt as if I actually had to scrape off a coating of cheap green paint to discover new insights for environmental living.
For several years, the green movement had been a hopeful sign for me- an indicator of progress within our world. This year’s LGE opened a crack just wide enough for my cynical default to leak in and start to corrode that hope: Is green just the way the consumer economy makes itself conscionable in spite of the “inconvenient truth”?
A few weeks ago I saw a Toyota TV commercial replete with green imagery hailing the Harmony that its new Prius was bringing between human, machine, and nature. The commercial is lovely, for sure, but equally disingenuous. Automobiles are actually one of the most significant sources of disharmony between human, machine, and nature that the world has ever known! Thousands of people are daily killed or injured in car crashes. Millions of acres of fertile soil have been paved over for roads and parking lots. Blazing headlights, sealed, sound-proofed, window-tinted, climate controlled cabins allow us to travel almost completely disconnected from the light, temperature, weather, sounds, and smells of the natural world around us. The speed of the automobile allows us to easily escape the location of home as bridges and tunnels remove the geography. These are only a few ways in which the automobile exists in disharmony- ways that the few extra mpg’s of the Prius does nothing to remedy.
The new Prius may be slightly less destructive in its relationship with humans and nature, but does being “green” mean that we can can call this “harmony”?
Is “green” now environmentalism like diet Coke is a health drink- an emotional crutch to allow me to continue to indulge my craving for what I know is harmful.
I am writing this as I sit in the air-conditioned comfort of my automobile, mostly oblivious as the Indiana plains fly past my window at 65mph. My Saturn station wagon is burning far less fuel per mile than the Hummer just ahead of me, but, ironically, no more than the Prius that just passed. I have painted my American lifestyle green, but I have come to realize that green paint is not at all true, living green. Green paint is applied to something which is not green in order that it might appear green. Living green is not applied, but grows up naturally from a green shoot.
I need a movement to inspire me. I want to experience genuine harmony between humans, machines, and nature. I want to cultivate living green in my life. I don’t want to salve my conscience- I want the real thing!