Denver Green Channel

The roots of the sustainability movement in Denver

Editorial: Trading “Passion” For Practicality

by Robbie - January 3rd, 2011.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

In  2011, will the focus of the Green movement be more practical?  Have we learned anything?

I read an interesting article by Juliet Eilperin; here’s the link: http://carolynbaker.net/2010/12/23/environmental-movement-beginning-to-understand-that-all-solutions-are-local/  I think she makes some powerful points about the need to localize Green and make it more practical.

While I understand the sentiments behind efforts to close coal plants, for instance, I’ve had a lot of questions about the practicality of that. I tend to be a skeptic of such drastic measures, particularly in light of recent Green fiascoes like the Iowa ethanol bust, which did much more harm than good. It put stress on communities and the food system and was a PR nightmare for Green in general.

I hope that we can engage in practical energy discussions.  It’s a bold idea to close all the coal plants, but wind and solar will not take up the slack and keep our petroleum-dependent infrastructure running.  Cold turkey in this situation isn’t just impractical, it’s cruel.  When the power goes out, who’s going to stand by bedsides and squeeze all the respiration bags to keep trauma victims alive in hospitals after the emergency generators die?  Energy is a big, complicated issue, and we are the five blind men clutching parts of the same elephant and shouting out our passionate reports.  Without the shouting and righteousness maybe we can communicate better, hear each other, share reports, get a more useful overview.

Can the Green community learn from examples like the ethanol bust and go forth with more a measured, practical focus? Maybe it’s our good fortune that economic conditions seem to be pushing us in that direction.

When the bottom fell out of the commodities markets worldwide and recycling became more expensive and difficult to execute, it was a reminder that recycling is not a bin. It’s a consumer loop. We were also reminded that re-use and careful wallet-voting contribute to less trash. It’s not just about throwing packages in the recycle bin; it’s about buying goods with less packaging to begin with and re-using that packaging whenever possible.

Workable solutions to our environmental issues tend to be more complicated and less sexy than an oversimplified and “passionate” ideology.  The next Hollywood actress who claims she’s “fiercely committed to saving our environment” needs to be questioned in  depth about that designer bracelet that distinguishes her as a Planetary Savior and followed on vacation to Aspen with a calculator. Passion is fun, but it’s not ultimately sustainable. Sustain, whether it’s used to belt an operatic note for a full minute or to design a water system with the people downstream in mind, is hard.  To sustain is to keep at it when passion runs out.

The environment is our ‘hood.  In this sense all Green is a grassroots movement, but the passion behind Green has been exploited in recent years.  It’s been politicized.  To make an issue political, in our climate, is to polarize it-to cut support for it in half and to invite 50% opposition.  This will harm support for any issue, but again, it’s our world we’re talking about here.  It’s the dirt that feeds us, the air that we need around 60 times a minute, the clean water that we require to live.  The issues are too serious to be subjugated to “passion”.

While celebrities go on about their “passion”, I hope that there will be enough support left over for the smart people who are plodding through the numbers, speaking softly, listening to each other and doing the real work, the long-haul, hard work that will help us truly sustain ourselves.

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