I’ve been reading the lastest issue of What is Enlightenment which is my new favorite magazine. The theme is “bright green” environmentalism which is about going beyond the guilt-Luddite dynamic that says we should all feel bad for breathing precious oxygen and go back to living in caves. That kind of environmentalism just hasn’t worked. It contains a fundamental ambivalence as to whether our existence as a species is a positive thing or not. And no one wants to sign up for that. The guilt trip of the millenia is unfun, unpopular, and unhelpful.
We need to change and we need to embrace innovation to make that change happen. We can’t go backward, we need to leap forward.
In the article, they have several sidebars with examples of innovative bright green design. Like these plants who with a bit of genetic engineering they can turn into land-mine detectors. Their leaves turn red when their roots run into carbon dioxide which is emitted by the bombs. So you plant them in a mine field and wait till they grow and bingo there are the landmines.
Genetic engineering isn’t a universal evil. The knee-jerk reactions of romantic greens don’t help. The fact is there is no more “pure nature”, untouched by pollution, invasive species, etc. (Just like there is no more “pure culture” untouched by consumerism and Western ideas, but that’s another post, about how anti-globalization is also unhelpfu.)
So this is where we are, and we can’t go back. And news flash, nobody wants to anyway. There’s a reason that the Amish are not the fastest growing religion in America. Life is driven to evolve and grow and develop, and to solve our crisis we need to embrace that urge and use it. In the article there another sidebar about a car that runs on compressed air. Air! How cool is that? Innovation is sexy in a way that recycling is just not.
They emphasize that individual consumerist choices (like shopping with cloth bags) is just not enough. In the grand scheme of things, it’s irrelevent. We need to change the underlying material structure of our society so that everything that is made is made from material that can either be 100% reclaimed or is 100% biodegrable. That means creating a zero waste manufacturing cycle for every single product. “Cradle to cradle” is the name for this kind of manufacturing.
The second thing we need to do is transform our urban areas into highly dense, highly livable places to sustain consumption and preserve green areas. Turns out people who live in cities use a lot less resources. Especially really dense areas like Manhattan.
How do we get there? By changing how we think. It’s not just about buying hybrid cars. It can’t be consumer-led, it needs to be industry and government and whole-society led.
We need to adopt open-source models of information exchange, so ideas and innovation can grow and be shared and develop as fast as possibe. We need to change our copyright laws to facilitate collaboration and the free flow of ideas.
We need to stop trying to impede progress and instead use this massive technological wealth and infrastructure that we have to transform the world we live in to one we can keep living in. The answer is not less technology: it’s more, better, brighter, greener technology.
There is a spiritual lesson in all of this. When you wake up and realize you’ve made a mess, it doesn’t hep to crawl back under the bed. To move forward, you have to move beyond denial, guilt, or fantasies of going back to the way it used to be. You have to embrace the current situation and use your strengths to solve it.
There’s a reason that humanity is here on this planet, and it’s not to crawl under a rock and die out so that nature will be better off. We can create a magnificent world that uses the amazing abilities humans have to innovate, to create, and to transform. That is our purpose, that is our reason for being here. Embracing that will unleash the power and creativity we need to make this next leap in our evolution.
What can you do?
- Read, explore, and talk about these ideas with people you meet. Google “bright green”. Talk to your favorite environmentalist about going forward instead of backward. Start with the books Worldchanging or Cradle to Cradle.
- Invest in innovation. Put those mutual funds to work.
- Learn to use breakthrough thinking. This means that the way to resolve a problem is to go through it, not to go backwards or to avoid it or try to go around it. Embrace challenges as opportunities. Encourage this kind of thinking in the people around you and the organizations you are in.
- Focus on the solution, rather than complaining about the problem (or the government). Read magazines like Yes! that focus on ways we are moving forward as a species and creating positive change. Let go of the easy despair into positive action. Feel happy to be alive, and proud to be human. Contribute in powerful and meaningful ways.
- Embrace your own edge. Everyone on this planet is part of the change that needs to happen, and it starts from inside. Step out of guit and step forward with power, in whatever path you walk. Stand up and be all of who you are, and support everyone around you to do so to. We all need to embrace the best of ourselves for what lies ahead.