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The Greenwash Brigade

Buying green to avert global warming is like #%*&ing for chastity

Jim Nicolow Apr 22, 2008

Michael Pollan’s latest piece in the New York Times Magazine, “Why Bother?” tells us why we should bother.

Pollan parallels Wendell Berry’s premise from the 70’s that the environmental crisis was essentially a crisis of character. While Berry bemoaned people who were quick to write a check to an environmental organization but slow to reduce their own squandering of fossil fuels, Pollan highlights our current equivalent of “people buying carbon offsets to atone for their Tahoes and Durangos.”

The same could be said about our fascination with buying green. Whether greenwash or legitimate environmental claims, I worry that buying our way out of our problems, simply by buying more of the right stuff, is fundamentally flawed.

Pollan instead imagines the sort of nonlinear, unpredictable viral social change that brought down the Eastern bloc, calling for readers to “find one thing to do in your life that doesn’t involve spending or voting.” For Pollan, it’s planting a garden.

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”

Zucchini, anyone?

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