August 01, 2007

Green is the New Blog

It has been a little over three weeks since Al Gore's Live Earth concerts took place around the globe. Perhaps my consciousness has been raised, because, in that short time period, I have noticed a proliferation of "green" messages. I see news articles every day about comapanies and individuals "going green." Blogs regarding "green" issues seem to be proliferating. Even my local coffee house has a large poster proclaiming its parent company to be "green."

At the same time, however, I have seen a lot of technical terms thrown around. "Carbon neutral." "Cap and trade." "LEED certification." It can be very confusing and intimidating.

So what does "green" really mean to the average person? I have been studying up on green issues, and, while still a novice, I can say what "green" means to me.

The green issue is first and foremost about global warming. I'm no scientist, but I believe that Hurricane Katrina, which took place in August 2005, and Al Gore's efforts, especially his wildly popular documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," followed by the Live Earth concerts, have put global warming on the map this year. "Going green" primarily concerns reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) to help stem global warming.

A major way to reduce carbon emissions is to use clean, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, rather than burning fossil fuels like oil and coal. So, the movement to "go green" is largely about increasing the use of renewable energy and using less oil and coal.

Coincidentally, the price of oil has exploded this year, to record highs. As a result, gasoline prices have skyrocketed. Thus, the incentive to reduce oil use and increase clean energy to help reduce global warming is now accompanied by a parallel, capitalist incentive to save money, at least in the medium or long run. People who need less oil to heat their homes or offices because they use solar power, or who need less gasoline to run their cars because they drive hybrid cars, won't have to worry so much about the rising price of oil and gasoline. The medium and long run will soon become the short run, as the price for alternative energy sources, hybrid cars and the like drop due to increased competition and technical innovation.

Then there is the Iraq War. This war serves as a stark reminder that the U.S. presence in the Middle East, which has always been more about oil than anything else, can lead to some very detrimental results, including the rise of Al Quaeda, increased terrorism against the U.S., the death and wounding of thousands of American soldiers and up to a million Iraqi civilians, the loss of U.S. prestige and respect around the world, and our kowtowing to anti-democratic Arab countries ruled by ruthless dictators, all because we need to keep their oil spigots open to us.

All of these factors have come together in 2007 to create a perfect storm that makes going green a sensible idea to many people at this time.

So, what can the average person do? Well, there are plenty of easy steps that we can take to "go green." Going green means lifting your foot off the accelerator ever so slightly when you see a red light up ahead, rather than speeding up to fifty and then jamming on your brakes at the last second. Going green means planning your car trips just a little smarter, so that you can pick up your kids from soccer practice and get that quart of milk in the same trip, rather than passing by the grocery store, coming home and heading out again for a second trip. Going green means turning off appliances and lights at home and at the office when they are not in use. Going green means checking your car's tires to make sure they are properly inflated. For more adventurous or dedicated types, going green may involve replacing some light bulbs with ones that use less energy, using a few less paper towels, turning down the thermostat by just one degree during the winter, or even choosing your next car largely on fuel efficiency grounds.
We can also let our Congressional representatives know that we want the U.S. to reduce its dependence on oil and other dirty fossil fuels in favor of clean, renewable energy such as solar and wind. This can include tax incentives to develop and install clean energy technology, increased automobile and SUV fuel efficiency standards, and increased pollution controls for coal and power plants.

Obviously, there are people who do not believe in the idea of going green, or the problem of global warming. Many of these people are being fed skewed statistics and talking points by corporate interests, through certain political organizations and their affiliated media outlets. Many corporations, especially oil companies, have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on expensive and dirty oil. They will lobby like mad against any efforts to change or reduce the use of their products.

For these non-believers, I have some great news: not only will you save money personally by becoming a bit more green, there is also tons of money to be made by companies that help people go green. New industries are sprouting up to create new technology for producing clean, renewable energy. Revenues and stock values of some companies, such as those involved in the production of solar panels, have increased markedly. The winners in this race, including the shareholders of these companies, will make fortunes. It would be downright anti-capitalist to sit this one out. My motto to the non-believers is: you do not have to believe in something to make money off of it.

It sure seems to this novice that "going green" presents a win-win situation all around.


At 3:16 PM, Blogger Aileen said...

Sometimes I think it's OK to have a shallow reason to make a change if the result is something good and positive and productive.

A great example for me is the fact that I quit smoking years ago, not because I was afraid of lung cancer, but because I was afraid of premature aging and "smoker's voice".

If you tell anyone I said that, I'll deny it.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Shallow or deep, the result is a good one.


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