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Posts Tagged ‘citizens’

“Why are you placing so much hope on Barack Obama becoming President? It is up to you, and all the other citizens to make changes.”

This is a refrain that comes up a lot, including from some La Marguerite readers.

I say, this is a false debate. The answer is, we need both a competent leader, and responsible citizens. A new President who understands and places sustainability, climate change solutions, and energy independence on top of the national agenda. Citizens who believe in their power to make a difference, in their support of new environmental policies, and in their daily lives. One without the others won’t work, and vice versa. The last few years should be proof enough.

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As I spend more and more time in green-dom, I realize there is not just a few, but many, many ways to become a green citizen. Problems arise when we are being forced into a one green-for-all carcan. These are some of the most common types I have observed so far:

  1. The extreme greenies, the ones that walk their talk, and some more. I talked about them last week in my post on ‘More Extreme Environmentalists Needed’. They are at the forefront of the green movement, have been for years, and will continue to be, as the need for higher green standards becomes more acute. 
  2. The green moms, who cannot get enough of green tips to keep their little ones safe and organic. Last night, some of the green moms in my group were celebrated in a big rahrah event in Washington DC. The green mamas are taking off!  All of a sudden, there are not enough of them to make the rounds of the networks. Who would have thought, even just a year ago?
  3. The green intellectuals, who spend their time thinking about strategic solutions to the big environmental problems facing us. They thrive on biodiversity loss, deforestation, climate change, overpopulation, peak oil, water crisis, . . . The bigger the issues, the better. 
  4. The clean tech crowd, many of them recovering software guys. They can be found at Cafe Coupa in Palo Alto, scheming their next green venture with their engineering friends, and old VC connections. Many of them are members of Cleantech for Obama
  5. The green political activists, who are into making sure the next green bill makes it to the floor, and gets signed. They work behind the scenes, are on a first name basis with their congressman and senator, and hassles their fellow citizens with numerous petitions. 
  6. The green media people, the bloggers like me, who spend a lot of their time, writing in their own blogs, or commenting on others’ blogs. Up in the stratosphere, are some stars, like Tom Friedman whose words carry so much weight, as in Hot, Flat and Crowded. The good news is, anyone can join. All it takes is a few minute to start a blog and write a post. No geekiness required. 
  7. The green scientists, a select bunch who determines what we should really be talking about. They have become the bearers of increasingly more bad news. No wonder, the Bush administration tried to shut them up. The path to green science-dom is a long and arduous one, but not without rewards. The cleantech types are loving them, and salivating over any new bit of research coming out of their labs. 
  8. The green watchdogs, most often found in non profit environmental agencies. Smart, and under-payed, they enjoy the privilege from being able to cause much grief to environmental offenders. Funding is still an issue though, and they are spending too much of their time chasing after dollars to keep their organizations afloat. 
  9. The green marketers, whose claim to green-ness is met with great suspicion on the part of the green watchdogs, and even ordinary citizens. They live in dread of the greenwashing word, and just want to do good while making a handsome profit. It ain’t easy, but they are getting better.
  10. The good green samaritans, who go about their green lives, without great fanfare, and with the satisfaction from knowing that they are just good. They can be found in unlikely places, in poor neighborhoods, where a single mom can surprise you with her green awareness, despite having to worry about so much more. Or a teenager whose green conscience stands out from his or her otherwise clueless family.

To each, his or her green-ness. What is yours?

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A wind of morality has been blowing all over, from the greenwashing watchddogs at Greenwashingindex, to companies broadcasting their good deeds in corporate citizenship reports, to the buzz about sustainability in the blogosphere. It is happening. JWT calls it the ‘emerging new spirit of good-citizen ethics’. Like the EcoMoms phenomenon, however, it is a movement, still confined to a fringe of the American culture.

The good citizen ethics certainly has not made its way through the streets of our cities. From The Open Planning Project in New York City, here is a very thought-provoking video on the ethics of urban automobility, featuring Randy Cohen, The Ethicist from the New York Times – thanks Kyle, for sending the video my way:

I agree with Randy Cohen that ethics cannot be left to individual moral choice. Instead ethics need to be embedded in wise policies, to be decided democratically by informed citizens. The problem of the individual car is just one example of the many environmental villains that are threatening our very existence. One precursor of ethics is consciousness. The more we watch and engage in discussions such as the one in the video, the more aware we become and the more ready we will be to define and accept a new code of ethics. That new code will make room for the consequences of our personal actions when we pollute our environment.

I am really curious to hear your thoughts on that one!

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Coming from JWT, my old place of work, the Ten Trends for 2008 Report has declared, ‘Blue Is the New Green‘ as one of the most significant trends for 2008:

From the 1980s onward, green has symbolized the embrace of jungles and wetlands and owls and dolphins as well as people. But even green has started to feel too limited. It’s now a subset of blue, which is coming to denote the much larger emerging new spirit of good-citizen ethics.

Environmentally, blue (denoting water) is becoming as big an issue as green (forests). The era of apparently limitless clean water supplies is ending. All over the world groundwater aquifers are getting depleted or becoming salinated. Rivers are facing overexploitation, pollution and silting. Oil spills, floating garbage, industrial pollution and algae blooms are impacting seas everywhere.

A recent report from the International Water Management Institute says that if today’s food production and environmental trends continue, water crises are likely to crop up in many parts of the world. Craig Donohue, chief executive of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, predicts that water could become a commodity on futures exchanges in much the same way as carbon emissions are traded today.

As it stands, hundreds of millions in the developing world have no clean water. Soon millions more in the developed world won’t be able to take clean water for granted either. Water management and conservation will rise up the agendas of governments and corporations around the world.

Water just might become the next oil. Yet there’s one key difference between the two precious commodities: While there are some alternatives to oil, there’s no alternative to water.

Beyond the water crisis, “blue” is becoming more prevalent in our consciousness. Take nature documentaries, the consumer agenda-setters of environmentalism. One of the first notable natural history series of the 21st century was The Blue Planet, produced by the BBC in conjunction with the Discovery Channel. It explored the oceans, which cover two-thirds of the planet, and put the notion of “environment” into a broad context for viewers. It played to audiences that were becoming increasingly familiar with satellite images of weather systems sweeping in from the blue of the seas.

Then in August 2005, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the United States got more people thinking about the environment on a big scale. Politicians and programmers started taking a serious interest in far-off glaciers and ice sheets, and the media was filled with images of blue-white ice framed by clear blue skies and icy blue sea.

Climate change has quickly become the driver of environmentalism 2.0, and consumers all over the world understand that climate is all about the seas and the sky—both blue. Environmentalism 2.0 is already a much bigger political and consumer issue than the 1.0 version, which was largely about issues such as deforestation, the ozone layer, pollution and biodiversity. And in some ways it is more immediate: While many people have never seen a rainforest, water is everywhere and conservation is more immediately actionable.

Almost unconsciously it seems, organizations and tastemakers have been tuning in to the shift from green to blue. Mercedes-Benz has patented its latest emissions-reducing technology for diesel as “Bluetec“. In the U.K., environmental specialists are favoring blue graphics and terminology, such as Level Blue Limited, a sustainability and environmental management services provider. In France, the “Pavillon Bleu” (blue flag) is awarded to towns and pleasure ports that meet all-around environmental standards, and the Blue Plan is a French-based project working toward a sustainable future for the Mediterranean.

Somehow, “blue” terminology and graphics suggest environmental responsibility in a more contemporary and credible way than “green.” It’s as if “green” became too strongly associated with “tree huggers” and the “beards and sandals” ethos of earlier environmentalism and with brands going through the motions of environmentalism (greenwashing). Now corporations embracing environmentalism can adopt “blue” without looking as though they’re jumping on the green bandwagon.

I agree with the report. Our blue planet is ill with a high fever, and there is more to saving it than plain old environmentalism. It is going to take a worldwide movement involving the whole citizenry to heal it. The good news is, all over we can see signs of citizens rising and starting to take action. Blue citizens – I just made up that word – from all walks of life. Lee Prescott at Wal-Mart, Al Gore, the Episcopal Church, eco-geeks all over the Internet, as in Do the Green Thing, U.S. Mayors, . . . All standing up for the planet, and the human race.

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