Fair and Foul
by Brennan Lagasse
The only constant is change. In that spirit, take a moment to reflect on how relatively simple it would be to find a stranger on the street and ask them, "What are your thoughts on climate change?" The point for now isn't exactly what that person might think, but the sheer fact that chances are, whether they have a solid opinion or grasp of the subject matter or not, by now they have heard of the term "climate change." If you tried the same exercise 10 or 15 years ago, would you still be able to ask that question knowing people would have at least heard about climate change? I don't think so.
The potential for growth within the environmental movement is strong, yet so many barriers have been put up since its gained strength cohesion amongst the movement at large has been tough to lock in. Even still, battles have been fought, and victories have been won. Although failures across the movement on a macro level continue as social activists, specialists, and other advocates look for ways to build affinity, in 2012, "green potential" is undeniable.
It's become cool for people, companies, and other entities to ride the green wave. Ten years ago I distinctly remember immersing myself in the quasi-field of sustainability, which, at the time, I could have a fruitful conversation about with a select few. Presently, "green" and the idea of green is not such a new thing. The current crux, beyond understanding, accepting, and fostering action towards unsustainability, is bringing a sense of integrity into the equation.
As the green movement has grown and continues to grow, there's a very real sense of "green-washing" and manipulation involved by those who want to seize the movement as a means to benefit without honoring the change that's essential in shifting lifestyle(s) and societies towards actual sustainability. Many larger companies and corporations have jumped on the band wagon simply because, for example, by going paperless they'll save money. If they wouldn't save money by agreeing to be an equal opportunity employer, then they wouldn't think twice about adopting that or any other fair-minded, just principle.
The foul play that has resulted from green-washing and the growth of the green movement is to be expected in a capitalist system, especially when people have been taught to seek personal gain over sustaining community on a long-term basis. At the same time, in order for the fairness and true potential of the green, environmental, or ideally sustainable movement to take hold, the foul play must be called out, combated, and ultimately eliminated.
In order for this shift to take place within a continually emerging movement, people and companies need to gain some acceptance with the fact that for the vast majority of us, our lives and lifestyles are not sustainable. It's okay, we're not perfect, we're humans after all, and we're all connected by systems that regulate and organize society. However, recognizing and respecting contradictions is a base level step that must be taken before moving forward.
Accepting this sense of accountability is necessary as it's also profoundly important to be up-front about the whole picture, practice transparency, and contribute in a manner that leads by example. All of this is easier said than done, of course. However, by growing with a sense of accountability and not taking on a role of sustainable, but rather speaking to the trajectory of sustainability and illuminating the sustainable steps one may have taken, it's much more natural to continue a healthy growing pattern than to take on an identity that has not yet been earned.
In terms of claiming green and not being green, that's easy. Anyone can say they changed their product and lifestyle and now "they're green." But are they? Does that really help push the movement, take away from it, or just dilute it?
Overall, advocates, paradigm shifters, and comrades are needed across the spectrum of human diversity on earth. That said, in bringing a sense of transparency and accountability to your green potential, you are being the change you wish to see in the world. You are helping lead by example. You are showing us all that it's possible to continue living with a sense of well-being and contribute to the betterment of all species and the planet by making actual green choices.
In the end, the green potential, and these so-called green choices will most certainly benefit you, but more so act in a rippling way outside of you. By shedding the foul and promoting the fair, this is one way the green movement can shift towards an actualized sustainable movement, one that connects across socio-environmental spaces that will hopefully one day just be regular, lived reality. If you can attain a personal sense of well-being without compromising the well-being of other species, then you have found a sustainable path. Follow it. When you do, your potential will be shared and it will only grow from there.
Brennan Lagasse is a writer, teacher, and mountain guide living in Lake Tahoe, CA.
Brennan can be reached at email@example.com.