It’s not uncommon to hear people say that the whole “green thing” is a fad, that it’ll go away eventually and things will return to normal.
Well, they’re right: the green thing is a fad.
What they’re wrong about is that things will return to normal. Actually, what they probably don’t understand is that the “green thing” they’re referring to is really the promise that everything will stay the same.
Let’s clarify: the “green thing” they are referring to is what I’ll call green tech. I want to contrast it with green design, also known as bright green design, deep green design, resilient design, etc.
Green Tech Versus Green Design
Green tech means doing the same thing we’re currently doing, but doing it more efficiently, less toxically, with a smaller carbon footprint.
Green design means examining what we’re doing and asking the question “Why are we doing this?” and “Why are we doing this this way?”
Green tech looks at a building and says, “This building needs cooling. We’ll specify the most efficient chiller we can get and use environmentally friendly refrigerants1.”
Green design looks at a building and says, “This building needs cooling, but if we work with the architect to cut down on the amount of windows, orient it a little different, add shading, and beef up the insulation, we can forget the chiller and just use a cooling tower and natural ventilation. We’ll cut the energy use so drastically that we’ll be able to cover electricity consumption with on-site solar.”
Green tech is the philosophy of the swap. It finds nothing wrong with the way the world works; it maintains that we can and should maintain our current standards of living. It says we can still live egregiously consumptive lifestyles, we just need to modify what we consume (consume green things!). Green tech is the ideology of The Swap, which is
“…the idea that we can change the components of suburban, high-consumption, auto-dependent lives without having to change the nature of those lives … that idea itself is non-reality-based.”
To quote Alex Steffen a bit more, from the same post:
“But the idea we that can swap the parts and keep the form is a necessary fiction: otherwise, business as usual would be seen (correctly) as a series of crimes against the future. Building a new freeway now, with what we know, is crossing the line from stupid to evil, but as long as we believe electric cars will somehow transform the whole system, we can pretend it’s sensible and realistic.”
Green tech says “We’ll build it green!”, where in some cases, green design will say “This should not be built.”
Green tech is a malignant economic system predatorily cashing in on a dawning awareness that all is not right, and exploiting people’s disquiet and genuine desire to positively change the world for the better.
So yeah: green tech is a fad, and the sooner it dies the better. We’ll be able to get to the important work of saving the world better and with less distraction when it’s in the ground.
1There is no such thing as a commercially available environmentally friendly refrigerant. There are refrigerants caustic to the environment, and there are refrigerants that are even more caustic to the environment.