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Are you part of a Green Party or a Green Revolution?

Party or RevolutionA few years back Thomas Friedman wrote a stirring essay in his book, Hot Flat and Crowded that I have used as a course reading over and over again.  I shared it yet again in class this past week.  His essay, "205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth" questions whether we have succeeded in bringing about a "green revolution" or whether we are just lounging about having a "green party".  He states in his usual cynical way, "Yes, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, in the green revolution we're having in America today, everybody gets to play, everybody's a winner, nobody gets hurt, and nobody has to do anything hard."  He continues, "That's not the definition of a revolution.  That's the definition of a party."

I tend to be a fairly optimistic person, but I'm going to have to agree with Friedman on this one.  Much of what gets touted as remarkable change appears to me to be more party-like than anything else.  I remember a few years back I was asked to attend an Earth Day festival in Ventura, CA to hand out literature about sustainable agriculture for the non-profit I was working for.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors flooded through the market-like setting, but the booth I was working (despite our free organic strawberries) did not seem to be getting much attention.  I wondered why nobody liked us so I left my post and wandered around to the other organizations to see what they were doing to bring over the crowds.  I found the other booths to be suffering the same sort of loneliness.  So I was left to wonder, what are all the people at the event actually doing if they aren't learning about how to live a more sustainable life?  Well, as my search continued I did find the people.  They were gathered either around the stage dancing or they were shopping.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with dancing, nor is there anything necessarily wrong with shopping (from thoughtful sources and in thoughtful quantities), but hopefully we can all agree that dancing and eco-friendly shopping alone are not going to solve all of the problems we face.  The fact of the matter is that we will ultimately be forced to do more than just the "easy" things if we wish to continue this whole societal adventure.  There is nothing wrong with starting simple.  We all have to start somewhere but don't pretend that you have done enough after buying one of our cool reusable cloth bags.  My hope would be that you'll have it strapped around your shoulder as you bike off to work tomorrow.

Friedman's essay is a cynical wake up call that I greatly enjoy, but I am still optimistic.  It is true that there are a great many in this just for the cool bumber stickers, but there are still others making difficult decisions and great sacrifices everyday to make the world a better place to live.  Sure, we aren't the majority, but we're here and we're making a difference each and every day whether it is making the decision to replace our torn and worn bedding with organic, the decision to live in a smaller home, or even the decision to take the time to check out a website like this.  It all matters and I'm just not giving up.

Vincent M. Smith
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Vincent_Smith Vincent Smith, chief author of The Organic Times Blog earned a bachelors degree in biology from his home state of Missouri, his Masters in Environmental Science from Oregon State University, and his Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He now teaches at Southern Oregon University and conducts research on coupled human-natural systems. Vincent is responsible for many of the business aspects of Silent Springs as well as responsible for the research and resources offered on the site. When not teaching or running a business, Vincent enjoys spending time with family, gardening, and just being outdoors.
  • http://www.greenlifestylechanges.com Jonathan Hunt

    The url for Pennies Per Pound is http://penniesperpound.org Please sign the petition - Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Silent-Springs/333575459988614 Silent Springs

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas. Pennies Per Pound is a great example of action! Feel free to leave your URL for others to follow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PenniesPerPound Pennies Per Pound

    I do not think we as individuals have to make all that great of sacrifices to save the world, but we do need to make real changes. I think the most effective way to change is to begin to pay more for energy. For over a century we have artificially lowered the cost of energy for various reasons. Now we are beginning to see the ramifications from the overuse of fossil fuels. Paying a few pennies per pound of CO2 across all forms of energy consumption would revolutionize the way the world works and put us on a path toward sustaining civilization.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Silent-Springs/333575459988614 Silent Springs

    “Yes, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, in the green revolution we’re having in America today, everybody gets to play, everybody’s a winner, nobody gets hurt, and nobody has to do anything hard.” - Read More: Be Inspired. Don't Give Up!

  • http://www.greenlifestylechanges.com Jonathan Hunt

    I've made the decision that it is better to pay more for what I need than less for everything else. I've also made the decision to get actively involved in the political dialog (log jam at times) around energy & the environment.

    And there is the whole getting my own house in order. We've reduced our energy consumption by 70% over the past 7 years.

  • http://www.silentsprings.com/blog/what-does-paradise-look-like-and-who-lives-there/ The Organic Times Blog | Blog

    [...] So, I’m not going to give away what I think the answer is to this dilemma just yet (you’ll have to visit again tomorrow for that), but let me leave you with a bit of homework.  Ask yourself the following question:  What does paradise look like and who lives there?  If we can answer what we would like to sustain and who we are planning to sustain it for, we might be able to have a conversation about what sustainability is.  Until then, I fear at best we are designing a measure that we can’t measure and at worst crafting a mantra for an elitist “green party”. [...]

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Silent-Springs/333575459988614 Silent Springs

    What decisions are YOU making in hopes of making a difference in the world we live in?

  • David Galbraith

    Thanks for reminding me that "convenience" is not always the issue especially where where sustainable agricultural products are concerned. Maybe it never is. But many of us break our own rules when shopping just because we would have to go out of our way to buy local, healthy produce.

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