Want to know the “greenest” thing you could do this holiday season? According to Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeaker Climate Action Network, it’s to “Stop Going Green.”
In his recent editorial in the Washington Post, Tidwell argues that if we want effective and lasting solutions to environmental problems in general and global warming in particular, we need to refocus our energy away from personal lifestyle changes and towards political action.
Tidwell sees two problems with our current focus on personal greening efforts. The first is that personal greening efforts haven’t gotten us very far. The second problem is that our personal greening efforts have distracted us from the more pressing task of political action and perhaps even aided and abetted the status quo. We run our CFL fundraisers and bring our own bags to the grocery store and buy each other “eco-friendly” gifts while we continue to drill and log and mine and pave our way into oblivion.
Unfortunately I think that Tidwell is on to something here. Like Tidwell, I can “almost imagine the big energy companies secretly applauding each time we distract ourselves from the big picture with a hectoring list of “5 Easy Ways to Green Your Office.” And yes I do think that the media has inflated the importance of personal gestures like washing clothes in cold water, and canceling our junk mail. And yes we have deluded ourselves into believing that we can change the world simply by changing our light bulbs.
Simply put: we can’t solve the climate crisis by changing our lifestyle choices. Rather, we need to change the universe of possible lifestyle choices and the framework within which we make our choices. We need sound public policy that takes certain choices off of the table (like buying gas guzzlers), that makes others more accessible and compelling to more people (like living in urban environments), and that transforms others into taken-for-granted facts of life (like living in energy efficient homes).
But I do not think that we should stop going green. Unlike Tidwell I think that green lifestyle choices can support and be supported by political advocacy. As I wrote in an earlier post, I believe that there can be a synergistic relationship between individual actions and social change, especially when individual actions include both advocacy and efforts to live according to the principles for which one advocates. Instead of halting our greening efforts, let’s put them in perspective (ultimately I think this is Tidwell’s message as well).
Yes we need to make different choices. But, more importantly, we need to join our individual voices to others in advocating for political change. Put differently: we need to “choose” advocacy as the first and most important step in our efforts to “go green.” We need to make sure our elected officials step to the plate and address the environmental problems we face. And there is no problem more pressing right now than global warming.
There are lots of ways to get involved with advocacy but for climate change there is no better place to start that 1Sky, founded in 2007, not as a new organization but as “collaborative campaign” of environmental organizations, religious groups, scientists, economist, business leaders, etc. who want our leaders to tackle global warming. 1sky has developed a policy platform and spearheaded wide-reaching and effective community organizing to promote this platform. Visit 1sky to get learn more about how you can help right now, including calling President Obama to let him know that you want the US to lead the way towards a comprehensive global climate treaty at Copenhagen.