True Green

24 05 2007

Rupert Murdoch

By Jill Ettinger

Green is golden these days. The number of converts grows daily, with highly visible people making the public leap. Earlier this month, Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch announced his plans to address environmental issues by reducing FOX’s carbon footprint. (Looks like little Lisa Simpson is starting to rub off on him, ay?) It’s quotes like this that prove somewhat startling, for a number of reasons: “The challenge is to revolutionize the [climate change] message, make it dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun.”

First of all, the climate change message IS, by itself, dramatic, vivid and revolutionary, without any help from FOX, or any other network. It’s a real issue with huge consequences. It is not a superbowl half-time show. Making it “fun” is an interesting thing to say. Yes it would be nice if all capable earthlings pitched in and helped do a little bit to address this issue, and working together to co-create a positive change can be a fun exercise. But I don’t think that’s what Murdoch meant. In fact, I’m quite sure he meant something more along the lines of, “Let’s make it hip, sexy and cool so that I can exploit the green out of it and make another gazillion dollars!”

Where we’re at with this enviro-era is very much like the year 1967 ( a common theme on this blog of late). When the flower-power movement picked up momentum because its message was true and timely, the media did the only thing it new how to do: make it mainstream. Hippy went from San Francisco street corners and underground night clubs to its antithesis almost overnight. Becoming fashionable played out the motions, but not the meaning of the message. Birkenstocks and bellbottoms make not a revolutionary, and the over-exposed mainstream molestation was responded to in San Francisco in late ’67 with a mock funeral march mourning the “death of the hippy.”

There are distinct similarities to what we see happening now, with everything green, and the counterculture forty years ago. To future generations, Vietnam and Iraq will often be confused as the same tragedy, relying on history books to make the distinction. We are living with this prolonged war rerun series that weighs heavily on those who realize it doesn’t end with the remote control’s off button. Factor in that the U.S. military is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, and I’ll admit, I’m actually quite curious to see how our administration and its media darlings will spin the green-chic. But that is just the point. When something becomes mainstream too quickly, people stop questioning its authentic value. If environmentally sustainable food, clothing, architecture and fuels move into mass consumption, that is obviously beneficial for the planet. But without the intellectual and spiritual reckoning it warrants, this critical movement is in jeopardy of being tossed out with last season’s wardrobe. People will miss the point entirely of why “paying more” for these options is in the long run, actually less costly. One can only hope that what distances 2007 from 1967 is the shrinking of the concept of revolution to simply that of evolution.

Organic makes up less than 5% of food consumed in this country. It’s practically invisible from low-income neighborhoods (as is any real whole food – organic or not) and cost-prohibitive for most folks with even moderate incomes. Naturally the savvy folks at Wal-Mart saw an opportunity to dumb down organics, spin it so their bargain-dependent customers feel like they’re not only getting a deal, but a healthy one at that, and then things like this happen. What the Wal-Martians are calling a simple “merchandising error” is, in reality, the average consumer getting duped. How can we honestly expect people to understand and appreciate these options if they are not really even getting them? This is exactly the type of example that will happen countless times if green loses its roots. I think it was a frog who once sang, “It’s not easy being green.”

So if we need a reminder of what the bastardization of a movement looks like, this is the classic example. What it truly meant to “be a hippy,” as in love your neighbor, stand up against war, expand consciousness, favor local community and explore the depths of human expression, is not a (genetically-modified, fossil-fuel buring, emphatically-bad-for-you!) Coca Cola commercial.

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