It’s Not Easy Being Green

If there is one thing I have learned being a grad student in environmental studies, it is that there is no easy solution to our problems.  In fact, much of what I have studied contradicts each other.  Many people have rigid notions of what it means to be environmentally friendly.  But when factoring in a rapidly growing human population and a variety of interrelated social and ecological factors, complications ensue.

I believe it is important to admit environmental issues are not black and white.  I have heard enough petty debating among environmentalists with differing views on the best course of action to take to understand why “environmentalist” has a negative connotation in mainstream culture.  If we can’t get over our own egos, how do we expect the rest of the human population to follow suit?  We must admit that, as a part of modern society, we are all guilty of creating negative impacts on the Earth.  And then we need to get rid of the concept of guilt.  It has been my experience so far in life that guilt does little except create resentment.

Perhaps I am getting too philosophical.  This is another problem I have noticed in my studies of environmental issues: the tendency for academia to be abstract and inapplicable to the concrete world.  But I suppose that constitutes another rant for another day…

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2 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Green

  1. Absolutely and very practical discussion in policy terms. Need much more collaboration with behavior psychology to better understand why and how people change behavior. Seatbelts, smoking, constructive competition, even the institution of slavery where an accepted practice went to an unimaginable practice may hold clues for redefining the good life in a dramatically less materially intensive fashion.

  2. Liz, you’ve hit the proverbial head of the nail with this post. While we are bickering over which type of renewable energy or food option is the best, the rest of the world looks at us environmentalists as if we are wack-jobs and/or freaks. Add in academia that specializes in ecology & environmental manners – which policy needs for guidance – and it’s a train wreck.

    My approach to trying to be green is this: if you can do a comparison of two methods, and find that one is marginally better in whatever area (e.g., less pollution, healthier for yourself & the planet, so forth), go with it. If you can logically deduce that you only wear 3 or 4 pairs of jeans (instead of all 15 you may own), then shed the extra clothes. Which is better for you: walking to the grocery store or taking your SUV? Buying renewable energy or using conventional? Installing ecologically-friendly landscapes in your home (rain gardens, greenroofs, no lawn) or using a shit-ton of pesticides and fertilizer?

    While many people would object to the above situations, it is only their personal ego and self-value of society’s view of themselves that is to blame for this objection. When you are aware of how your actions affect the planet, and you are able to not give a care about what others say, that these issues become moot.

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