This is my first “green” column. Before sitting down to write, I took a couple tranquilizers to slow my respiration which will lower my output of carbon dioxide and thereby reduce my carbon footprint. I mounted the treadle mechanism from an old sewing machine under my desk, cut a hole in the desktop and ran a discarded fan belt up to a recycled generator that is now powering my computer. This arrangement means I’m not only saving energy, but pro _ _ _ Oops, better peddle faster.
Pardon the sarcasm. It isn’t that I take issue with the aims of the “green” movement. How can you be against a course of action that reduces waste, saves money and will arguably create a healthier environment for everyone? What turns me green around the gills is emerald overdose.
With the regularity of clockwork, words or phrases will come along that the public, media and businesses latch onto with the tenacity of a pitbull and don’t let go until they’ve chewed them to death. Remember “state-of-the-art?” These four words, originally penned in 1910, were rediscovered and turned into the buzz phrase of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Any product, process or service description lacking this compound adjective was incomplete. “Call now and this state-of-the-art butter dish can be yours for just $19.95.”
I’m as guilty as anyone for extending the life of these hackneyed terms. As someone writing text for packaging and corporate literature, I’ve used the standard cliches more times than I care to remember. “This state-of-the-art sludge pump boasts world-class features engineered by professionals thinking outside of the box.” “World class” is a phrase I never did understand. Who in their right mind would want their product described in terms of the world, considering its general condition? It’s gotten to the point where I can hardly speak these phrases without triggering my gag reflex.
“Green” is well on its way to becoming the mother of all overused terms. If you’re into color coding, there are actually three shades of green, or so I’ve been told: light green, dark green and bright green. Bright green is the hue that has gained acceptance with the general public. It focuses on constructive solutions and alternatives rather than slashing the tires of logging trucks or picketing at the gates of a power plant.
I attribute my aversion to “greenmania” to my college art instructors. I was taught that conformity and traveling with the herd was the surest way to suppress originality and creativity. Without doubt, the green herd is growing by leaps and bounds. It seems everyone wants to get on the bandwagon: there’s “green” beer; “green” cleaning products; “green” snack foods; “green” petrochemical companies. Given the present climate, the sales potential of almost anything can be enhanced by simply adding the word “green” or affixing a snappy green leaf logo.
“Green” branding has created heightened awareness of some important issues, but its cash value will also be exploited to the nth degree until green numbness sets in.
The “green” movement has become all the rage in building construction. I listened to an interesting discussion on public radio about “new” concepts being employed in buildings in warm climates. The speaker described how they were minimizing or eliminating the need for air-conditioning by designing buildings with strategically placed windows for natural flow-through ventilation, large overhangs to shield the building from direct sunlight and higher ceilings to allow the hottest air to rise above head level. The speaker noted that these same principles were employed in home construction 200 years ago. The growing popularity of organically grown vegetables and livestock is another example of people looking to the past for answers.
What bothers me most about everything green is the repackaging of practical, frugal and common sense ideas under the guise of something new and progressive. We could give credit where it’s due. Instead of saying “go green,” we could say, “Hey, lets do it like great grandad did.” That would at least acknowledge the accumulated wisdom of generations past. But to do so would be an admission that our modern world has made some bone-headed decisions. “Going green” is a slick way of taking credit for reinventing the wheel and it sounds like a radical change in direction, even if that direction is backwards.
There is a limit, however, to the gains that can be made by turning back the clock. Considering the U.S. has something like 60 cities with populations over 300,000, I doubt urban pollution problems would improve if the primary mode of transportation was the horse.
I said this was my first “green” column, and I promise it will be my last. I’ll forego any further color critiques until the arrival of the puce revolution.
Have a profitable day,