Thursday, March 17, 2011

It is spring. It is St. Patrick's Day. Don't just wear green.

Did you smell the air today in Ann Arbor? Did you hear the birds going absolutely nuts? For those of you who are not in this area, the air smelled sweet of mud and grass and melting snow and evaporating water. The birds are back in full force, ready to grace a new spring in song and energy. It is spring, the time when white and shades of gray give way to the spectrum of colours, from red to green. It is also St. Patrick's day, a day in which the only right colour for beer is green (eww), and the only right colour for clothing is green, too. Let's unpack this colour, this word. (Shout out to red-head Smitty!)

Much of this blog has been devoted to the understanding of words that we use to describe the environment, our interactions with it, and our interactions amongst ourselves. There are several important ethical assumptions we make when we use words like "developed countries" and "developing countries." I believe in the importance of using words only if you mean them, particularly if there are non-negligible implications of those words. (I hope I don't sound like a sour guy.) The more freely we use words, the more chance we give people to usurp the word to make it mean what they want to. This can lead to very tough situations in which you may be talking to somebody about something, and they may be understanding something completely different. "Green" is one more such word. It has been now used to describe cars and computers, air travel and tourism, extractive industries and new clothes. "Green" has been turned into a fad, just like "sustainable" has. To me, the true essence of the word in normal communication has now been lost. Call me masochistic (A very thoughtful and cool person has called me that. You know who you are =)), but many of the things people advocate aren't green, but are less brown.

I sometimes wonder whether the motive behind action really matters, as long as the desired outcome is achieved. People can decide not to pollute because they don't have to pay clean-up costs, or they may not pollute because they love the environment. But when push comes to shove, what are we willing to compromise on? Well, if something is going to cost money, many people will shy away from it, even though it may be less brown...just like Krista feels. Is the environment something we can compromise on to make the other kind of green?

I hope we can all think about this difficult issues, and not just use words (or dress a certain way, on a certain day) to make ourselves look good or feel good. Let's mean what we say. Maybe then we will mean what we do.

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