“Green,” as anyone with a modicum of cash knows by now, is one of the latest big consumer crazes. It’s been around for a couple of years, but it seems to be growing: you can purchase books on how to eat green, live green, renovate green, and of course, there are a bijillion “green” baby products, from books that advise you to buy used clothes and furniture (wow, authors! thanks for that! I couldn’t have come up with that without purchasing your large book printed on paper!) to organic cotton onesies that cost $35 to toys made from recycled plastics and wood pulp to whatever else someone somewhere thinks might satisfy those previously warring impulses to satisfy consumer lust and save the planet.
Today I got a newsletter that contained an article on “how to throw a green party” this summer that would be both fun and kind to “mother earth”. I also watched a video of Phillipe Cousteau talking to Bill Maher about the Gulf Oil spill, as well as learned about the devastating oil spills happening in Nigeria that we never hear about. According to some estimates, as much oil is spilled in Nigeria and the surrounding ocean every year as has been spilled into the Gulf so far.
Meanwhile, my government in Canada has made pompous, ridiculous, and purely rhetorical claims that we have all the regulation we need to permit off-shore drilling in the Arctic (although they didn’t put their money where their mouth was: Chevron will continue with its drilling plans, but it looks like future proposals face a stricter review with increased attention to safety procedures and plans).
What the Gulf disaster highlights to me is the irresponsibility of focusing one’s “green” activities on one’s own, primarily consumer, practices. One simply cannot save the planet by satisfying one’s consumer desire in “responsible” ways. All the locally produced food, organic cotton onesies, car-sharing and freecycling in the world is not going to make a difference in a political climate where for-profit corporations are in charge of monitoring and maintaining their own environmental controls. The world’s environmental crisis cannot be broken down and addressed by the uncoordinated actions of individuals. This is a political problem. It is a world-wide political problem, and it requires work, solidarity, and the courage to stand up to those who would dismiss us as anti-business or distract us with (admittedly, often gorgeous and highly desirable) “green” consumer goods. It requires us to demand that our government start regulating the environment as though citizens and not corporations were their priority.
If you want to have a “green” party this summer, make it a letter writing campaign. Demand, for example, that the government consider an oil company’s safety record at every single drilling site before granting drilling licenses. Or find organizations that are lobbying for tighter environmental controls and see what you can do to help. Get a group together to do break down the intimidating amount of research that is necessary for informed political action, so that it isn’t just you doing your thing and me doing my thing.
Whatever you do or don’t do, make no mistake. If you want to “go green”, you must “go political”.