We were told that if environmentalists got into bed with corporations, that if we all just did our one little thing, that if we changed our light bulbs, bought a hybrid car, and supported alternative energy, that things would begin to turn around. It hasnt, and it wont. If every person in the country did every suggestion in Al Gores film, it would only achieve a 22% cut in greenhouses emissionsand some scientists say we need a 90% cut to save ourselves.
The lite-green time is full of hope and talk of sustainability, opportunity, positive solutions. Green is the new green they say. We CAN have our planet and eat it too! There is no conflict between the economy and the environment. Well news flash: all that stuff you consume comes from SOMEWHERE on planet earth. And all the pollutants spit out when the stuff is made, transported, consumed, and thrown away, go somewhere on planet earth.
When we eat sushi, endangered blue fin tuna die.
In a days worth of flying, your seat on that plane consumes more fuel than an SUV driver does in an entire year.
Every time you flick on a light switch, fire up an iPod, or turn on your computer to write, a mountain in West Virginia is dying so that we might have the miracle of electricity.
So there is indeed a conflict. We cant have it all. We can save the planet or our lifestylesnot both.
So what is it that keeps us from leaping into action given the dire environmental dilemmas we face?
One strong factor is the mixed messages of the lite-green movement. When Al Gore says change your light bulb while taking flight after flight and limo ride after limo ridehe is sending us a double message. I would prefer that my drug counselor not have a needle sticking out of his arm.
The lite-green movement plays on a basic human need. We all want to feel optimistic. But optimism at the expense of making a real plan to save ourselves is the opposite of hope. Its ultimately suicidal. What is keeping us from robustly challenging the plans put forth that say we can sequester the carbon (unproven) offset of our flights (doesnt work) or run civilization on windmills or ethanol? (Ethanol = food riots and gas is still double the price.)
For me, real hope comes from a full assessment of the mess were in. How else might we make a plan to save ourselves? You dont say I dont want to know if I have cancer unless you have a solution or I am not going to turn around and see if my house is on fire unless you hand me a hose.
Real hope also comes from community. By community I dont mean localization. Thats good, but its not going to save us. For me the emotional, spiritual and mutually supportive aspects of community are whats important. It is the coming together for mutual aid and support. It is the banding together to deal with a powerful threat--even if the threat is ourselves. AA comes to mind as quite good at this.
So instead of a lite-green movement, I propose a new shade of green: dark green. Healthy nature is dark green, not the pale green of trees struggling to survive in a dryer, hotter, more polluted world.
The first step on the path to recoveryof becoming dark green--is acceptance. Humanity is in a real mess and theres a good chance were not going to get out of it alive. This really sucks and avoiding talking about it only makes it worse. Of course, those who really dont want to give up their sushi or flights or electric toys or leaf blowers and weed whackers wont want to hear any doom and gloom, because it might ruin their buzz and insert some guilt to that magical journey to India, China, or South America.
But through acceptance, and openness, and making plans to save ourselves that actually stand a chance of working, dark greens begin to transcend the doom and gloom, just as cancer patients report the freedom and hyper-reality that come from facing the disease square on and alcoholics in recovery find a heavy burden lifted and spirits soaring.
Earth Firsts motto is that action is the antidote to despair. I think thats right but the action must be paired with a full understanding of whats called for in these times. And to the extent that our lifestyle is addictive (and its VERY addicting) ,we all need to get into a recovery program of sorts to even think straight about this. Otherwise our actionswhether spiking trees or ethanol or flying about the planet complaining that fossil fuel use is killing usmay be misguided or even make things worse.
Now I am not expecting tons of other folks are ready to be dark greens. The lite-green movement will not go down easy because none of us want this amazing ride weve had hepped up on fossil fuels to be over.
If so email me. We have to talk. Time for the dark greens to come out of hiding, stop being depressed, and help lead the way toward a real plan to save ourselves, or at least make what is waiting for us when the oil, gas and coal run out and the planet falls apart, more humane.
In crafting a way that we might survive this and save as much of this glorious, amazing, full-of-life planet we live on as possible, I find a deep amount of hope. And after all that is the only task before humanity, whether we know it or not: save the planet, or lose everything.
Jeff Gibbs is a musician and filmmaker from TC. Write him at JeffGibbsTC@aol.com.