when going green loses to saving green

There’s no I in team unless that team happens to fail.? Then it’s all Is.

Not sure if you’ve heard, but, well — we’ve got quite the tumult crashing through our economy at the moment.? It’s already ravaged Lehman Brothers, Bank of America has purchased Merrill Lynch, and AIG has been bailed out by (whom else!) us!? Oh, you didn’t know?? You there, American citizen, own a bit of AIG Insurance now.? Lucky us.? It only cost the federal government $85 billion — chump change.? But did it calm the ailing market?? No.? No it didn’t.? And if the Fed can wrangle up $85 billion and it barely makes a dent, well, what hope do we have?? Let’s just say we are holding on to our money with a lot more constraint.? Sadly, though, some important issues are being forgotten.? The sustainability of our planet through the help of “going green” is one of those issues.

Although the importance of environmental protection has not completely left the market, it certainly has dwindled as of late.? When presented with the choice to buy green products versus the often less expensive, but less environmentally friendly alternative, most are beginning to choose the latter.? What hasn’t stopped, though, is the public outcry for the greening of businesses and their products.? Although we don’t want to help the process by paying for the greening — we still want it to be green, damnit.? It’s like condemning the fatal outbreaks of malaria in Africa, but refusing to send over a few mosquito nets.? Just.. doesn’t.. make.. sense!

Or does it?? Let’s take a look at this from a psychological and anthropological point of view.? First, to define what “going green” truly is, at its core.? Right now, at this very moment, going green is a luxury.? Buying organic, buying environmentally sound products, owning a hybrid, powering your non-hybrid vehicle with vegetable oil, outfitting your home with photovoltaic panels — it isn’t necessary in the sense of stringent and absolute survival.? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs displays a visual pyramid of the different steps and stages of survival.? At the bottom, denoting the most important, are those needs that are absolutely essential.? Breathing, food, water, sleep, we need those.? Up a level is our personal security, shelter, security of health and resources.? Still further is love and belonging, then esteem, then self-actualization.? Well, where would “going green” fit on this continuum?? It is certainly not physiological.? It might be argued that it’s safety, but with the strictest of definitions, it isn’t.? Love and belonging? In the global sense, perhaps, but probably not.? I would place “going green” in the esteem category, doing something in order to garner a sense of respect for one’s self, others, and better one’s self.? Four levels removed from absolute survival, three from safety.? Psychologically, it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to be worrying about our esteem when our financial security, our personal safety, is being threatened.

Anthropologically, the greatest acheivements have always occurred during periods with the least unrest.? The golden ages of society can be seen in ancient Greece’s own golden age, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment.? These eras were cultivators of art, literature, philosophy, architecture, and science.? Why?? Because when you are well fed, your thirst is quenched, your job and finances are steady, a roof hangs over your head and a bed underneath your body, you are well respected and proud of yourself, there isn’t a whole lot else to do but give back.? Create.? Develop.? The current economic downturn is simply preventing this type of enlightenment.? And luxuries, no matter how important or selfless, fall victim to the deep rooted instincts of survival.? Going green simply doesn’t make sense right now.? Anthropologically speaking, that is.

So, I guess not going green right now does make sense.? But it sure isn’t stopping the fervor with which we want to witness change, no matter how little we actually participate.? That, too, is just human nature.? As much as we will deny responsibility when faced with it in a large, unaccountable group, we will also be the first to accept praise as part of that large group — no matter how little we actually had to do with the success.? Why else would so many people go to root on their favorite baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey team?? Why do the Olympic Games capture our hearts and minds every four years?? Each one allows us to assimilate ourselves into a group and triumpth with them.

So, even if we’re not individually going green right now, should all of our ecological ailments be solved tomorrow, you better bet that we’ll all be there toting the line of success shouting proudly that it was us that made it happen.? Typical humans.

2 comments for “when going green loses to saving green

  1. September 18, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    According to Maslow’s picture of the mind, I think going green too often falls into the esteem rung, like you said. There are many people that feel they’re doing the world a favor by going green, but I don’t think it’s going green, by itself, that makes people feel good about themselves (when it should be).

    No, humans are far more self-centered than that, and also have a poor sense of the long-term (as in, anytime after 2 years from now). I believe the majority of green efforts, particularly those of large corporations, celebrities, and wealthy individuals, fit under esteem because they want others to think highly of them, (they’re rich, so they already think highly of themselves, remember).

    Going green doesn’t have to be involve expensive, NASA grade, solar panels and Tesla cars. Things like adjusting the A/C by 2 degrees, unplugging things when they’re not in use, recycling, and planning trips more carefully, could really have a big impact. If more individuals could be encouraged to make small behavioral adjustments, we’d be well on our way to shifting the pressure toward the government, regulatory bodies, and ultimately, big industry.

    But, who cares. We’ll all be dead by the time the world is engulfed in flames and acid rain. Right? Unless, of course, that’s what ends up killing us.

  2. September 18, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    All I know is, if I wake up tomorrow to the news that WellsFargo has crashed and the $63.87 in my checking account has disappeared those bankers are going to have one irate customer on their hands. And no amount of free candy, cookies or coffee will be enough to calm me down. Well, maybe some amount of free cookies, candy or coffee. Let’s just say an “undisclosed” amount. How’s that for bankspeak?

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