Sunday, November 22, 2009

#40 -Going Green



It was the decade when...

Green was the new black.

The bad news: We're all fucked. The planet is now a phlegmatic, feverish, invalid. Mother nature is looking more and more like Grandma Moses each day. Hard to believe for some but, if science is to be trusted, it seems that pumping carbon emissions and pollution into our environment unabated for a hundred years eventually takes it toll. Who woulda thunk it?

What's going to happen according to those nerds in the know?: Temperatures will continue to rise. Even one or two degrees upwards will wreak total havoc. Eventually, ice caps will melt, polar bears will go the way of the woolly mammoth, and the Kevin Costner film Waterworld will come to seem less a Hollywood debacle and more like the most prescient of documentaries. (Yes, in the future the oceans will be ruled by a leather clad Dennis Hopper in an eye patch.) I, for one, have already bought some beachfront property...in Nevada.

The good news: It was cool to be a harbinger of doom. There was no easier way to be "with it" than to decry the fate of our planet and mock those rubes who would deny the existence of climate change even as they suntan in January. And rubes they are indeed. There are few emotions as self-satisfying as justified pessimism in the face of delusional optimism. Convinced that climate change is nothing but a socialist plot to regulate commerce, the far right, though convinced of impending Armageddon by any and all other means, nonetheless refuses to believe that we could ever do anything to our environment that would threaten our well-being. The good lord said nature was there for our use after all. So, it was empirical fact vs. faith based denial. Um, score one for science. The problem is, of course, just how bleak the scenario really was. No one wants to hear about their inevitable destruction. Pandora's Box cannot be left wide open, hope must be maintained.

Enter the patron saint of the new environmentalism, the maharishi of green, the philosopher-king of Eco-alarmism, Al Gore. A dejected and bloated Gore left the 2000 election embittered and in shambles; a should-be president with no country to lead, what was the former VP going to do with himself? The answer, become earth's biggest hero since Captain Planet. There was something charming and professorial about his slide show of eco-terror, not the hippest of ways to spread his gospel of green. And yet, put that slideshow (OK, powerpoint presentation!)on film, release in theatres across America and you have yourself a major documentary hit. Two Academy Awards (Yep, even the song won!) and a Nobel Peace Prize later and the green movement had reached its apotheosis.

Now everything is green. Celebrities are green. Companies are green. CARS are green. CARS! Kermit was so wrong. Being green is a marketing ploy now, a signifier of a person or product being "with-it." Shedding the granola eating, hemp attired persona that typified environmentalists in the past, the environmental movement could count on movie stars to be their poster boys. Leo DiCaprio drives a hybrid and flies commercial, private jets use too much fuel. Less glamorous, Ed Begley Jr. has gone all the way, living in a "green" house and driving a converted electric VW rabbit. It's all about eliminating your "carbon footprint," one of the Aughts most pronounced coinages.

Is it all for nAUGHT? Though Gore would have you believe that changing your light bulb will change the world, I can't help but fear we are deluding ourselves about our own ability to divert the rolling boulder of climate change. China and India are on track to surpass the USA in almost every criteria of industrialization, including carbon emissions. America has passed no real laws or regulations that addressing the issue in any serious, systematic way. We couldn't even stand in solidarity with the rest of the civilized world and join the Kyoto protocol. What we have instead of policy is fashion. Instead of solutions we have "crisis awareness." Instead of leaders we have trendsetters. Own a hybrid car? Awesome. Seriously. But China is still poised to pump more pollution into the environment than any nation has in the history of the world. And they all ride bikes! Everyone doing their part may not be enough, and until we realize as a nation and as a world that a political solution in the only solution (if there is a solution), I'm afraid all the good intentions and Hollywood endorsements wont be worth the price of a gallon of dirt when we find ourselves canoeing over the Sahara.

You AUGHT to remember...


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