It’s Not Easy Being Green

I am not an environmentalist.  Though I probably appear to fit the profile of a typical environmentalist… or I did until the giant gaggle of yuppies and mass media acquired the rights to the word “green” only to start selling it off piece by piece.

I like polar bears.  And I kind of like penguins.  (I mostly just like watching polar bears and penguins swim. It’s therapeutic.)  And so I am very sorry that their habitats are melting away, but let’s face it, no one is recycling for the polar bears.

Once upon a time in a previous rant, I explained that I find environmentalism to be a misnomer, because no one really cares about the natural environment.  People aren’t “saving the planet” for the sake of the planet, they are “saving the planet” for the sake of the livelihood of human beings.  We need the environment to stay similar enough to how it is now so the lifestyles we have come to love can be maintained.  We don’t want California to fall into the fucking ocean.[1] We don’t want all of our coastlines to be washed away.

And while these may be catastrophic events that would alter the course of human events, frankly, I don’t care all that much.

But more importantly, if I did care, it’s too late.  Oh, I believe Al Gore when he says that the effects of global warming (ManBearPig) can be reversed to some extent if we do something about it now.  That’s not what I mean by too late.  What I mean is that we’re far to set in our post-industrial revolution ways to have enough people make enough lifestyle changes to make a damn bit of difference. Americans love their cars and eating meat too much.

(Incidentally, the other reason why I don’t care is because I want the color green back.  I’ve never really been a green person (I prefer blue), but I miss being able to say the word green without people thinking you’re talking about a bamboo floormat for your Toyota Prius.)

Green doesn’t even mean anything anymore, it’s a marketing tool.  It’s a fad.

Environmentalism has become a fad.

It’s going to pass, just like some day we will live in a world where Simon Cowell is no longer making fragile egos cry.  People are trying to profit off of the “environmentalist” movement just like they were trying to profit off your waistline with the “low carb” diet craze.[2] So apparently to be an environmentalist now, you have to be a capitalist, ignoring the fact that capitalism is what got us into this mess in the first place.  Now, I’m sure that real environmentalists can justify all of this to themselves, by telling themselves that this is a compromise.  Sure, people are polluting the environment when they order post-consumer recycled glass from Oregon to be shipped to Connecticut for the back splash in the kitchen of their six bedroom home, but at least post-consumer glass is being recycled.

I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t do it for me.  I’m not going to feed the machine just because the direction it’s moving in isn’t completely deplorable.  It’s a patch job of a solution that does not address the real and complex problems going on.

Yes, I’m cynical.  And yes, I’m kind of lazy.

Though in the grand scheme of things, I don’t consume all that much anyway.[3] In fact, I’m a terrible consumer.  I do exactly what they don’t want you to do, if I think it’s too expensive (and pretty much everything is), I won’t buy it.

We are a people who are pretty set in our ways, and generally the only thing that changes is the way we use technology.  The problem is that we still think that we should have “choices”[4] and this is why green marketing will never really take over.  If buying products that are manufactured in an environmentally friendly way will really have an impact (and presumably people WANT it to have an impact), then you can’t present it as a choice.  You just have to do it.  Tack it onto a bill the Republicans like.  And if “environmentally friendly” methods cause prices to rise, then tough.  The government created consumerism and we blindly followed, so both sides have to take responsibility for it.  Sure, you’ll lose a few consumers (probably me), but they are probably the poor ones that you are marginalizing anyway.

And if big business switches over right now to environmentally friendly methods, then they still have a chance at being glorified before it’s too late.  Before the fad ends.  Before it becomes mandated.  Before people start resenting the planet that they are trying to screw over.

And anyway, bottom line it’s rather presumptuous of us to think that we can destroy the planet. Earth is going to outlive us.

Earth will fight back.

Earth will kill us all.


[1] Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.  So rarely do I get to incorporate Rancid lyrics into my day.
[2] And for the last time, people need carbohydrates!  There’s simply a difference between a banana and a twinkie!
[3] Compared to the average American, most people would be horrified by American waste.
[4] Of course, we actually have very few choices.

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10 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Green

  1. I definitely agree that environmentalism has become a fad, driven by the consumerism that got us into this mess in the first place. I wouldn’t say that no one cares about the planet for its own sake…what about eco-terrorist groups? Of course, they are in the minority, and you are probably right that we are too attached to consumerism and wasteful production methods to really change things. And yes, it’s probably too late anyway.

    For me, the really sad thing is that people in the U.S. and other wealthy countries will be able to cover up environmental problems and adapt to climate change while hundreds of millions of poor people will be forced to leave their homes as they become uninhabitable in the next several decades. And we’re so focused on remodeling our kitchens with “green” backsplashes that we’re not doing anything to prepare for it. Yes, the Earth will ultimately win, but there will be a lot of suffering in the meantime.

  2. I forgot about ecoterrorist groups… they do seem to be acting for the sake of the planet itself, though without really appreciating the irony of needing to use property to destroy property. And you have to wonder if they really care about the environment or if they are trying to satisfy some sociopathic need…

    You’re right, I hadn’t really thought about it, but it will most definitely be the poor and the poor countries that will suffer the most… same as it ever was… same as it ever was. So long as I’m quoting song lyrics, a little ditty by Bad Religion comes to mind:

    I don’t need to be a global citizen
    Because I’m blessed by nationality…

    • Hmmm…interesting thought about ecoterrorists and sociopathy (is that a word?). I wonder if anyone has done an ethnography of an ecoterrorist group…interesting project.

      Very appropriate Bad Religion quote! And it fits in well with some (half-formed) questions I am working on for my research. Hmm…do you think I can quote Bad Religion in my proposal?

      • Well, founding member Greg Graffin (who writes most of the songs) has a PhD in zoology/evolutionary biology from Cornell. He majored in anthropology and geology as an undergraduate. So, if you quote him as Dr. Graffin I think you could get away with it!

  3. Good article. I wrote a similar essay “T(r)ending Green” for my own failed blog. Except my final argument against recycling was that the way things are going it’s inevitable the Bomb is going to kill us all within the next century. People are in denial about it because they can’t do anything, so instead we spend what little time we have sorting trash.

    • Ah, the Bomb. Of course, you’re right. This is all under the caveat that human beings don’t blow themselves and/or the planet up first. I guess it’s easier to sort through your garbage than face the big picture.

      Does your failed blog still exist? I’m still trying to figure out whether mine is failed or not… blogs aren’t kind to writer’s block.

  4. Actually, I have two failed weblogs:

    thoughtsoutofseason.wordpress.com

    and

    povertyofphilosophy.wordpress.com

    The first one was where my essay was, but it’s been wiped clean. I had a grand project worked out to link the two, but, just like Marx said, doing nothing but clicking a mouse button all day warps your mind. By the end of the day I can’t come up with anything. If the links are ever posted on my facebook page it’ll mean I’ve actually started writing.

  5. :). NGL, the only reason why I save paper and recycle is pretty much 100% because of Treebeard. Yes, Treebeard the Ent. I just felt so sad when Saruman was destroying them that I just couldn’t condone wasting so much. I mean…the poor trees and Ents in Fangorn forest! 😦
    So yeah, there you have it. I am not even a little bit normal.

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