With all the current hubbub about “green technology” and “thinking green,” it has lately become quite fashionable to express concern about maintaining and preserving the natural environment. Wherever that environment might be. To be honest, we’ve been hearing the same dire predictions about the imminent doom of our planet as far back as I can remember, so whenever someone starts shouting about “the environment” I ask to which specific environmental issue they refer. Air pollution? The ozone layer? Deforestation? All of which weren’t apparently the world-ending threats they once were touted to be (granted, the jury is still out, and will continue to be for a few more centuries).
People have been discussing environmental issues for hundreds of years, though the movement really started to grow by leaps and bounds in the second half of the 20th century. Many of us still remember the “ecology symbol,” a symbolic variant of the ubiquitous peace sign done up in the official “ecology” colors of green and white and branded during the 1970’s as an official logo for the environmentally conscious. The first Earth Day was part of the so-called “ecology” movement. The seminal “conservation” movement of the early 20th century became yesterday’s “ecology” movement which has now become today’s “environmental” movement. All that activism has (supposedly) been waged to defend the sanctity of our limited natural resources against the rising tide of greedy corporate consumption.
It’s a valid cause. It’s also a GREAT way to mine the guilt of the consumer public to raise money to support ALL KINDS OF interesting political causes. Media-savvy politicos quickly latched onto environmental issues, and through blatant overuse environmentalism has become inextricably linked to the political landscape. Modern candidates for office must walk a moral tightrope and solemnly promise to defend the environment from big business… while simultaneously reassuring the corporate world that developers will be granted free rein to pillage the environment unchallenged. Neither set of promises will actually be met— there is far too much rancor and extremism on both sides of that argument to allow any real compromise. Nor can anyone be expected to wind up happy with the actual end result. That’s an impossibility when two sides of an argument become that polarized— their demands and expectations become so extreme that neither side can ever really be satisfied. Disappointment becomes anger, and the old party gets voted out in favor of someone new, who again promises everyone he will give them all what they want… and the cycle repeats itself.
Anyone who wants to generate real and lasting change of any sort must first deal with the powers who stand behind the present status quo. Green technology might seem like a great idea, and it is— except it needs a lot more time and money to perfect it. Don’t forget there are forces in place that stand to benefit more by keeping things exactly as they are, rather than by developing new and better replacements for their own products and services. The petrochemical power industry, for one. For proof of that, one need look no further than the recent surge in government-funded development of solar technology— swiftly followed by the invasive deal brokers of the current petroleum and coal power services, who appeared on the scene, cash in hand, and began acquiring numerous small solar-tech companies NOT to nurture and develop them, but to CONTROL AND DISMANTLE THEM. No laws were broken and one supposes the shareholders of those solar companies were pleased with the easy profit they made by selling their shares. But Green energy won’t ever be allowed to really work until the monied elite behind the current power industry can arrange to own it, or until wholescale depletion of current resources finally forces their hand.
A lot of old corporate dinosaurs may be short-sighted and obsolete, but they are still big and hungry. I wouldn’t expect the sudden advent of a brave environmentally-green new world until those dinosaurs become extinct, or evolve into a smarter species.