4月22日是地球日，今年已经是第39个地球日了。记得两年前我曾看过Alex Steffen 写的一篇关于地球日的文章，当时看了感觉那文章简直是字字切中要点。今天重新翻出这文章来看，其意义不减当年：
The biggest problem with Earth Day is that it has become a ritual of sympathy for the idea of environmental sanity. Small steps, we’re told, ignoring the fact that most of the steps most frequently promoted (returning your bottles, bringing your own bag, turning off the water while you brush your teeth) are of such minor impact (compared to our ecological footprints) that they are essentially meaningless without larger, systemic action as well. The strategy of recycling as a gateway drug — get them hooked on it and we can move them on to harder stuff — has failed miserably. We can do better.
It is, essentially, the politics of gesture, little different than wearing a rubber wrist band or a pink ribbon, and, such a politics is primarily a means of raising money for large NGOs while making regular folks feel a little better about their relationship to a terribly flawed system. It’s a broken model, and we can do better.
This point is worth pausing on, because so much of the green marketing BS around us tells us that the planetary crises we face are our fault, that it is our responsibility to fix them and that buying products which are marketed as “green” will fix that problem. The myth of individual lifestyle responsibility is so strong, most of us don’t even comment on it anymore. But in many ways, it’s a lie. What most needs to be changed in the world are the systems in which we are all enmeshed, and we ourselves, acting alone, are almost powerless to change those systems. To do that, we need better information, stronger connections and new ways of thinking.
Which is exactly why transparency is so important. If we’re serious about dramatically reducing our footprints, we need to know the true impacts of our actions. We need to know the backstories of all the objects and services in our lives. We need the flows of energy and resources and money that once were hidden from our sight to be made visible. We need complete transparency in public life, so we know our governments (which are ultimately the most important shared levers for action we own) are working (and on who’s behalf). And we need all this information revealed in ways that interest and delight and outrage and inform us, through projects like Background Stories and FarmSubsidy.Org and reHOUSE/bath. Knowing the true backstories of our lives is not only the first step to changing our own behaviors intelligently (through strategic consumption, for instance), it’s also the best way to make clear the need for combined, collective action.
What we need now are much stronger connections between the various camps of people who are all charging forward determined to build a future that works. We need an explosion in information sharing and mutual education, across borders and across disciplines — almost a second Enlightenment, where through open debate and fresh thinking and artistic brilliance, we join together to banish ecological ignorance and transcend social irresponsibility.
We know now that one planet lives, conceived properly, will be better lives. Many products that are more sustainable are also better made and beautifully durable. Green homes — with natural light and fresh air and good insulation — are more comfortable than McMansions. Vibrant neighborhoods with nice streets and parks and a strong community offer a better quality of every day life. Fewer toxic chemicals in the air means less asthma and cancer; better food and more walking means less heart disease and diabetes; less driving means fewer people killed and injured in accidents. Waste is expensive, bad design is expensive, and the money we save eliminating both can leave us better off than we were. We can build lives which are bright green and prosperous.
Bright green economies will be the drivers of 21st Century business. The future belongs to those enterprises and agencies that capture the markets for wind power and other clean energy, water purification, clean tech, advanced vehicles, and the sorts of appropriate technologies (like rainwater harvesting and LED lights) needed for sustainable urban living at the bottom of the pyramid. That path leads to the future, and the wreckage of companies and countries that can’t learn to think differently will line the way.
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