environment

Green! Green! everywhere but no smaller footprint in sight?

Going “green” has become as nebulous an idea as “happiness”. 

Twenty first century living has made it fashionable to be “green”, but what does is it really mean?

Does driving a Prius or switching to energy efficient light bulbs make you an environmentalist? Or do you have to be a granola-eating-vegan protesting at an international climate change conference to be one? With so much information and mis-information out there, has all this “green” activity really made a difference to the environment?

As it turns out, not all green is created equal.

Pioneering environmental journalist and founder of WorldChanging.com, Alex Steffen  coined the term “bright green” and what follows is a summary of his brilliant explanation around the evolution of the environmental spectrum.

The fastest, largest and most complex movement in the world

Forget about everything you associate with a “movement” or an “-ism” you might know: well defined ideology, central aggregation of power, and (usually) male dominated leadership.

The movement I’m talking about is what author, environmentalist, entrepreneur and the best spokesperson Mother Nature ever hired Paul Hawken brilliantly describes as “humanity’s immune response” to our current ecological and social crises.

The scientist in me loves this analogy. The changemaker in me heaves a sigh of relief (just as Hawken predicts) – the sense of finally dropping the orphaned feeling of having to be out in the trenches with a tiny army; marching with the grand burden of saving the world on my shoulders.

I’m sure you have a basic idea of the human body’s immune system. The good guy antibodies recognizing, attacking and killing the bad guy antigens (viruses, bacteria etc) to keep you healthy.

Hawken replaces this simplistic caricature and reminds us of the jaw dropping reality.

“In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe…..

….So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it……You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are.

Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules?

Move over carbon footprints - Watts are in

magine having a “nutrition” label on all the products you use and activities you engage in daily - from reading the New York Times to using your laptop to drinking a glass of wine.

Except instead of “fat” and “carbohydrate” percentages, it would breakdown the power being used each step of the way.

Though “energy labels” are still a few years away, genius and prolific inventor Saul Griffith has created a method to calculate your current daily energy consumption! 

WattzOn is a free online tool that you can use to calculate and keep track of the power needed to maintain your lifestyle. You can compare it to the world wide average and get tons of fun insights on how to cut back on whatever is sucking up the most energy.

A toll on the planet

A few years ago I stumbled upon The Earth From Above [Vu Du Ciel], a collection of aerial photographs by Yann Arthus Bertrand. My jaw dropped to the floor. I was in awe. Not just of Yann’s genius – which is exemplary – but the mind boggling view of the earth I had taken for granted.

More than pretty pictures, these images tell a compelling story of the state of our planet.

To wit: The Eye of Maldives, an atoll [coral reef surrounding a sunken volcanic island] that is at risk from changing tides and temperatures, as well as the ravages of tourism. As a reference point, atoll formation may take  up to 30,000,000 years.