Monday, November 12, 2007

5 Things Environmentalists Should Stop Saying

There are certain phrases associated with the green movement which annoy me, for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just laziness to insert a word as a catch-all phrase so that everyone knows you’re talking about environmental issues. Other times I think the phrase does nothing to further the green cause and in some cases can be detrimental. So here are five things I think environmentalists should stop saying:

  1. Alternative Energy. It’s not alternative, it’s just energy. Okay, I know that we use the word alternative to distinguish these energy-generating schemes from the traditional coal, oil and nuclear schemes, but people get scared of the word “alternative”. The word itself makes things seem less robust, less tried-and-tested. And what could be more tried-and-tested than Hydro-power? It’s been around since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, so why is it labelled as Alternative? Stop using the word, and just call them energy sources, and people may come to accept them as normal.
  2. Save The Planet. We’re not trying to save the planet, the planet will do perfectly okay without us. What we’re trying to save is life as we know it, whether it is our way of living or the lives of other species. Trying to Save The Planet makes no sense whatsoever. We should start a Save Our Lifestyle campaign, that should get people off their backsides and doing something.
  3. Change Your Lightbulbs. Ah, the phrase that occurs more often than any other in a top 10 list of things to do to Save The Planet. If only it were that simple. Yes, I know why it’s a popular thing to say – it’s easy to do. But to my mind it gives people a false sense of fulfilment, that all they have to do to jump onto the green bandwagon is change a couple of lightbulbs (just a couple because the rest all are dimmer switches, so we’re allowed them). The argument runs that we should break people into a green way of living easily, that one thing leads to another. We shouldn’t just jump straight in with Stop Driving because people won’t do that. I say we should tell it like it is, that changing your lightbulbs will not Save The Planet.
  4. Putting “Eco-“ In Front Of Everything. We’re all heading for an eco-disaster of eco-nightmare proportions unless we live an eco-friendly eco-lifestyle.I said not so long ago that the environmental movement will have “won” when Tesco produces a ready-meal containing organic ingredients on a biodegradable tray, and doesn’t tell you in huge letters on the packaging. If we want products and services to be mainstream, then make them sound mainstream. Putting “eco” at the front only serves to limit your product or service to a niche market.
  5. Carbon Neutral This bugs me more than any other. We can never be carbon neutral. We can do our best to limit the amount of CO2 we produce, but we can never neutralise it. Buying offsets doesn’t in any way impact the carbon we pump into the atmosphere doing our various eco-activities while we Save The Planet., it just salves our conscience. Besides – and I’m about to give away the Big Dirty Secret of the green movement here – we don’t need to get rid of all the CO2 pollution. We just need to bring it back down to a sustainable level. That means some degree of pain and inconvenience for most people, but it’s easily achievable. Start with changing your lightbulbs and switching to an alternative energy provider.

PS I discovered while writing this that it is impossible to type while listening to "Ace Of Spades" by Motorhead!


Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent post - you're right with all your points!

donna said...

do you rant in real life too, or just get it all out of your system on here so that you can then lead a zen-like life? :)

La Ferme de Sourrou said...

This post really struck a cord with me, it's exactly the way I feel about those words/expressions/prefixes.

Despairing said...

Donna, I'm almost horizontal in real life! It's a wonder I can be bothered getting out of bed some mornings.