Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Giant green wooden horses

I've just read an article in a local magazine bemoaning the level of 'Greening' that's taking place at the moment. 'Greenworld', it says, is being forced upon us by our government like some kind of nightmare communist diktat (their words not mine).

What upsets the writer most is that many things which are supposed to be eco-friendly actually have negative environmental consequences (wind farms chopping birds, biofuels, mercury in low energy light bulbs).

While I would dispute the tone of the article and the idea that government intervention is unnecessary, the writer has stumbled on an acute truth. Compounding our problems of navigating in the green jungle is the fact that whenever the government or a corporation want to sell us an idea, they now try to pass it off as eco-friendly.

Of course, some of this can be summed up by the performance of Kevin in the last series of the Apprentice.... is it any wonder people remain confused and sceptical?

I know what you're thinking, greenwash. But greenwash is an attempt to cover mal-practice through bad PR. What we are seeing are pro-active attempts by everyone to corner the green consumer market or force through unpopular measures with government backing. This is more like a phalanx of giant green wooden horses being driven through the gates of consumer democracy.

The most acute of these issues at the moment are biofuels and eco-towns. We want to keep driving everywhere the whole time because we've under invested in our countries public transport for the last 50 years and are too scared to see more fuel strikes? Biofuels will solve that. We'll wake up to no rainforest later. We want to build 3 million homes in the south east on green belt land? That's Ok, they'll be eco-towns. Forget the fact that they'll be in the middle of nowhere so there will be a dramatic increase in road traffic. You could also add poor plans by large energy companies for windfarms in marshland previously designated as sites of special scientific interest.

Since the world food crisis has deepened we have thankfully seen a bit of a turnaround in the government's attitude to the former. However, how many more projects like the Severn Barrage are gong to be forced through under new planning laws, a green mandate and heavy industry lobbying?

So, eco is being used to sell or force feed us things that are not truly sustainable. This causes massive problems for those things that really are helpful and only goes to fuel some people's perception of eco-nazis/commies going to spoil our fun. Such negative and frankly defeatist comments are popping up all over the place like mushrooms after heavy rain. While I can empathise with the feelings of the writer of - 'Spaggetti junction at the bottom of the green revolution' - this kind of tone is hardly going to improve the situation.

Here's a good article from Sian Berry about eco-towns: