Watt’s Happening: The Three Shades of Green

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

By Don Pettit

The environmental ethic has evolved over the last 50 years. It has now separated into three distinct shades of green: Deep Green, Dark Green, and Bright Green. Which shade of green are you?

Deep Green says: “I am one with nature, I yearn for a simpler life closer to nature, and a return to nature is the only answer.” Dark Green says: “The world is ending! and we are all to blame!” Bright Green, a newer form of green, says: “A much better world for everybody and everything on the planet is staring us in the face, all we have to do is help make it happen.” Personally, I tend towards the brighter shade.

Bright Green points to a better future that is all around us, happening and trying to happen. It focuses on solutions. It is positive, empowering, and brings people together. It motivates with hope, abundance, and security. It says that limits to what we can change may have been set by technology in the past, but in the 21st century, that is no longer the case. We now have all the information, know-how, processes, ideas and knowledge that we need to transform the world.

Deep and Dark Green say: “another world is possible.” Bright Green says “another world is HERE. It just isn’t fully in place yet.”

Dark Green points fingers and lays blame. It focuses on the problems. It tries to motivate people into action with fear and worry, but instead tends to be divisive, discouraging and disempowering. It has been the dominant shade of green for some time, and many now argue that it has worked against itself.

Bright Green, on the other hand, is about abundance, not scarcity. About moving boldly ahead, not timidly and fearfully falling back. Its not about dragging down the old paradigms, its about building new ones. It’s about boldly doing something that has never been done before: consciously redesigning our civilization. A big job, sure, but just look around. We’re already doing it, massively, on a global scale, every day!

Bright Green recognizes that the future is marching ahead and not waiting for anyone, and we have to engage and deal with it, not run away and hide. Massive change is upon us: global climate is shifting in unpredictable ways, affecting everyone and everything; half the people on the planet are under the age of thirty, and a third are under fifteen (that’s 2.2 billion kids!); we’re building about a thousand coal plants on this warming globe over the next decade, and the largest human migration in history is moving billions off the land. Meanwhile, the cost of renewable energies from the sun and wind are about to make our fossil-fueled economy look expensive, dirty and downright silly. None of these outrageous changes make any sense by even 20th century standards. Bright Green says a 21st century paradigm is needed, and it exists. In fact, it’s staring us right in the face.

Bright Green guru Bruce Sterling says it like this: “The limits aren’t to be found in the technology anymore. The limits are behind your own eyes, people. They are limits of habit, things you’ve accepted, things you’ve been told, realities you’re ignoring. Stop being afraid. Wake up. It’s yours if you want it. It’s yours if you’re bold enough.”

It’s tempting to pine for simpler times. It’s likely that the sustainable world of the future will include some of the best aspects of the past: a return to more local production; more land and sea set aside for nature; healthier lifestyles and communities; less pointless consumption; energy from the sun, wind and earth . . . but we don’t know, exactly, what that future will be like.

What we do know is that the future isn’t waiting for anybody. And we know that even a fraction of the world’s military budget could solve world hunger, provide clean water, clean energy, shelter and security for everyone on the planet. In spite of what you may have heard to the contrary, we actually CAN do these things. Now.

The brighter shade of green I subscribe to says: “So what are we waiting for? Let’s do it!”

Don Pettit is a director of the board of Peace Energy Cooperative.

Photo caption (Earth from space): This is the most famous photo of Earth from space, taken by Apollo astronauts traveling to the moon in 1972. It inspired a whole generation of environmental activists by showing, for the first time, our entire planet alone in the emptiness of space.