Green Greed

Green Greed

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May 31, 2012

Part of the attraction of green greed as a solution to all our woes is that for privileged first world consumer societies it appears painless, fostering the illusion that we can still live in five thousand square foot mansions and drive hybrid SUVs and take exotic cruise ship vacations, as long as we use biofuel. It’s magical thinking, of course, but to an infantile audience, it’s very appealing.

Green greed as a system of deception, however, is in public relations terms logical, no matter how illogical its precepts. Given the political illiteracy of first world audiences, hijacking their environmental sentiments makes sense; until enough of the first world citizenry awakens from their consumer coma, PR will remain their reality.

Inducing consciousness, unfortunately, is not as simple as holding rallies, protests or other public events; while they can begin to stir an awareness in some individuals, wakening large numbers of citizens to the limited utility of orchestrated consumer campaigns is not where I’d place my hopes. A few fully conscious, organized and active groups of individuals are more likely to have a lasting impact.

All this is relative, of course, and maybe the global financial crisis will expedite that consciousness raising, but old habits of looking to patrons in the form of corporate bosses and their philanthropic associates die hard. With limited resources and time, we have to ask where our energy is best spent.

When faced with such questions, I have always found it helpful to refer to some simple lessons learned by environmental and human rights organizers over the last half century: practice democracy, oppose fraud, and help those who fight back. Linking green greed to its roots in Free-Market environmentalism — a PR development of the Reagan era — might help to illuminate the hoax.

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