J500 Media and the Environment

Who speaks for the people? by alejandrooj840

            Some of you may have seen a previous post where Mark Johnson describes the green movement as elitist and commoditized.  It was no surprise that most comments to Mr Johnson’s remark followed the “I get it… but….”structure; and proceeded to describe where his position could improve.  After speaking to about a dozen people in the “labor” or “blue collar” category I think that Mr. Johnson may have been more correct than I would like to admit.

            One topic popular in “green” chit-chat (including our class) is hybrid cars.  One of the most popular for its “greenness” is the Toyota Prius.  With its motto “Prius for the People”, it carries a $22,720 MSRP ($25,565 with touring package).  Missouri has a minimum wage rate of $6.65 an hour while Kansas only guarantees $2.65.  If I were to forego everything including food and shelter, it would take me about 2 years to afford this car under Missouri rates and over 4 years in Kansas.

            My group has had the opportunity to speak with labor leaders as well as workers; and there seems to be a disconnect between their perceptions.  On one side labor leaders (who are not blue collar themselves) think that their constituency cares and is affected by energy and environmental issues.  On the other, all interviewees mentioned that they knew little about the subject and that it had little impact in their personal lives.  They mostly focused on immediate, tangible concerns such as the cost of gasoline. 

            So, as we try to answer the question “who speaks for the environment”, we should also answer the question “who speaks for the people?”


Alejandro Ogata


3 Comments so far
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I agree with your perceptions about the elitism of the green movement. It’s hard to try to convince someone to buy a $10 CF lightbulb when they are watching every penny they spend. Do you think education would play a big part in reaching out to the blue-collared workers or are there other ways that you have considered, ie green jobs?

Comment by susang09

I think education would be good. However, I think that this is a question of direction. The green movement’s message is not directed to the lower and lower-middle class; who probably make the majority of people in this country and more than 90% worldwide.
The challenge is to refocus the discourse and move it away from talking about the tesla electric sportscar. Let’s talk about TRULY affordable housing that is sustainable. Let’s talk about solar water distillers made from used plastic bottles and no-electricity refrigerators. These are things that exist now, and have been used in places like Tanzania.

Comment by alejandrooj840

This is a very insightful post. Thank you. This is why I hold as a key part of environmental action the notion of environmental justice. There is no movement if it does not include everyone. The focus on eco-efficiencies has kept people from asking the very question you pose. Fortunately, grassroots activists are working to address this – form Solar Richmond to Peoples Grocery. We need to cultivate more of those efforts here in the middle. For more info, you can also check The Good Fight series on SundanceChannel.com.

Comment by j500

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