Why is Green Sexy? Eco freakos and Economics

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The other day I went to a concert with a few friends and where we were standing, the nearest bin was about 100 metres away, so I decided to drop my cup on the ground. One of my friends looked at me in amazement, with that ‘I know you didn’t just do that’ look, and proceeded to pick up the cup and manoeuvre his way through the crowd to the bin.

So I shouted after him, “Oy, Captain Planet, you DO know that people will be cleaning the venue after the event right?”; and with that he went off on this rant about people like me and the planet. This got me thinking… Why does everybody think they have to be eco freako all of a sudden?

When I was younger, I can remember a lot of media talk about pollution, saving the trees, and reforestation to stop landslides etc. Then there was this whole thing about green house gases, CFC’s and holes in the ozone layer. It doesn’t take much investigation into the Earth’s history to see that the message spread by the media about global warming in the 90s wasn’t exactly good journalism.

That message was telling us we had to try to stop an inevitable event from occurring – the melting of the polar ice caps. It’s happened before and it will happen again; google interglacial period if you want to find out more.

Even the effect of rising water levels is exaggerated. Have you ever had a glass of water with ice in it and the ice melted? Did the water suddenly overflow? Scientifically, ice displaces the same amount of water as if it were in its liquid form. It’s the ice sheets that rest on land in the arctic that is the real concern in terms of increased water levels.

Fast forward to today, and the message is a bit more varied. Amidst the media, our tree-hugging friends, and the men who jump on trucks by the labasse to ‘buy’ a fridge, and have been doing it for years, the rest of us are now catching up in the recycling game.

 

“What are we really trying to achieve with this green revolution? Is it just about saving the Earth?”

 

Every day you hear the message, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. What are we really trying to achieve with this green revolution? Is it just about saving the Earth? Or do we need to think about what life will be like as our environment changes?

In England, everyone is talking about reducing their carbon footprint, and in Canada the focus is on reducing our impact on the environment by becoming more efficient at recycling, while using less energy, and water. As a developing country, I’m not sure if Trinidad and Tobago has a holistic enough approach.

As pictures I’ve seen of the recent floods show, quite a lot of litter floats in the streets; unfortunately, we don’t have people to pick up the cups thrown in the streets or on the floor in everyday life, and Uncle Charlie lessons and other campaigns haven’t been very effective at getting the message through to the majority of people to stop littering either.

Global warming as a topic is still a major issue, but the difference is that scientists are saying that there are many more things affecting the climate – from cows farting CO2 all the way to leaving your computer running 24/7.

 

“The green agenda has exploded in the last decade or so because of its economic potential.”

 

As scientific knowledge expands and new theories are formed, I can’t help but draw the parallel to economic development. Just as Eric Williams argued in his renowned book, Capitalism and Slavery, that slavery was necessary for the economic growth of its era. I believe that the green agenda has exploded in the last decade or so because of its economic potential.

From a business standpoint, there will always be a cost benefit to reduce waste: use less water, turn lights off when no one is in the office, print on both sides of the paper, and the list goes on. Looking at the bigger picture, the evolution and variations of the messages we’ve seen is evidence that there is no global consensus on how to preserve the earth. Isn’t that a bit ironic?

We also have some leaders in the G8 who are refusing to agree to set long-term goals to cut carbon emissions… Hmmm… I wonder why.

I recently came across an article in Times Magazine by Michael Mandelbaum who argued that reducing dependence on black gold in the US would also reduce the threat of terrorism by significantly reducing the income available to terrorist supporting regimes in the Middle East. Interesting and a bit laughable, yes – but Mandelbaum goes on to argue that “…by consuming so much oil, the U.S. is in effect fighting a war against terrorism while funding both sides”. This is another topic by itself, and this isn’t a conspiracy article.

It also makes sense that the world’s developing nations will not easily succumb to pressure to reduce carbon emissions, if it is directly linked to their rise in economic power. Therefore, countries like Brazil, Russia, China and even Trinidad will continue to increase their consumption of oil, despite the environmental impact. As the race to develop greener energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol, and other bio fuels quickens, it will be interesting to see how their development is affected. The best time for these nations to invest in developing a standard format for green energy is now. A few prudent investors have already started building small fortunes from investing in this sector.

Issues such as these are making environmentalism such a hot topic, because it strikes a chord with all of us. My issue is with the way the topic is positioned – as if we don’t change there will be no earth for our future generations to live on, as if the place will suddenly explode… GARBAGE!

I say it’s important that we try to reduce our effect on the Earth through initiatives like conferences, other drives like “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and making an effort to do the small things in our daily lives, which will help the environment.

If we want to ensure that future generations have a place to lay their heads, then we also need to start thinking of alternative ways of living with the changing environment rather than merely living in it. We don’t want to go the same route of the dinosaurs, do we?

 

Anthony La Borde

Anthony La Borde considers himself an entrepreneurially minded idea generator, and plays a key role in a number of business ventures. He loves to start conversations and entertain people with his sometimes controversial thoughts.

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