In 2006, Al Gore released the excellent “An Inconvenient Truth,” his inspired documentary about the state of the planet, and effectively introduced the problem of climate change into the mainstream. Sure, being “green” had been around for some time at that point, and it wasn’t like no one was aware of global warming prior to the film’s existence, but Big Al presented the facts clearly, concisely and effectively enough that he incited widespread awareness of the problem, all the while looking much more stately, distinguished and commanding (read: fatter) than he ever did during the 2000 election to boot. Winning the Oscar for Best Documentary that year (along with a second Oscar for Best Song, Melissa Etheridge’s robust “I Need to Wake Up”), only extended the reach of Gore’s film. 2006 was a good year for environmental awareness.
The problem is, the popularity of “An Inconvenient Truth” only encouraged the perpetuation of “being green” as an exclusive, enlightened niche group. All of a sudden, dozens of “green” websites began popping up everywhere, promising tips on how to live a happier, healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle (and trying to make a buck or two in the process). Although sites like TreeHugger and AutoBlogGreen were doing a fine job providing quality, newsworthy environmental content, there started to be a trend of sites attempting to jump on the green bandwagon with pointless, inane eco-drivel, hoping that Birkenstock-wearing granola hippies would be too eager to embrace all things eco-friendly to notice the paucity of valuable information.
Particularly offensive was the launch of the Planet Green channel earlier this year, featuring a lineup of green-centric programming for the eco-friendly couch potato. Highlights of the channel include an extra-smug Adrian Grenier patting himself on the back for his environmental efforts on “Alter Eco,” and Ed Begley Jr’s über-boring “Living With Ed,” which I think is tacitly about the monotony of married life. In any event, the channel is a complete and utter waste of time, and effectively highlights the overarching problem with the green movement in general. In an effort to capitalize on trends, media outlets have missed the point. Yes, it’s important that people are making the effort to live responsibly, but why try to integrate environmentalism and entertainment? Instead, why don’t TV networks invest in more sustainable energy, so that I can know that the new episode of “Ugly Betty” is coming to me at less of a cost to the environment?
When being concerned about the environment is treated as a fringe mindset, or even as simply a “cool” subculture, it encourages both a snooty exclusivity, and the idea that environmental consciousness and responsibility is not a pertinent issue on the national stage, which it clearly is. The 2008 presidential campaigns have given a great deal of attention to environmental concerns, and the question of how we acquire our energy will inevitably play a large role in determining who gets elected come November. Emissions standards, alternative energy sources and our unhealthy dependence on oil are critical issues in this election cycle. At this moment in history, the environment is important to everyone, not just the people who read blogs about Leonardo DiCaprio’s eco-friendly composting toilet (not that Modern Jackass has anything against Mr. DiCaprio’s toilet—in fact, we commend him for his purchase. We just don’t want to feel like we have to be up to speed on the brand of toilet Mr. DiCaprio has selected to shit in in order to be considered environmentalists).
So why is green dead? It’s dead because duh, of course you’re green. Everyone’s green. Or, at least, anyone who cares even the slightest bit about this country—nay, this planet—making any forward progress in the generations to come is green. Green is not a niche movement anymore—it’s simply a part of being an informed human. We need environmental legislation, renewable energy, cleaner cars, socially conscious corporations, etc etc. We need the kind of change to the infrastructure of our society that will reverse the destructive course we’ve set for ourselves by becoming the poster children of waste and over-consumption. We need leaders who understand that, and who will implement that change. What we don’t need is another website about recycled bookmarks. Use some scrap paper, for Christ’s sake! Jesus.