J500 Media and the Environment

Reflections on “green” by Victor Vijayakirthi
June 26, 2009, 2:28 am
Filed under: J840 Week 2 | Tags: , , , , ,

As I grappled with the question of what is green, I read about Silver Spring, Barbie and listened to Friedman. Everyone was saying something, but what was it? Walden encouraged me to look at my own roots in India.

As I thought about how we lived then, it struck me that life was much simpler. We bathed from a 5-gallon bucket of water. Soap came wrapped in a piece of paper. Dinners at large festivals were served on plantain leaves. We walked or bicycled everywhere, and played outside. Battery-powered toys were unaffordable. Recyclable containers and shopping bags were the norm. Grocers and vendors wrapped condiments and food in old newspapers. Relatives brought provisions from their farms when they came to visit. We bought less, threw away even less.

I visited the same town, about 25 years later, in 2006. Nostalgia aside, I could tell there really was a big change, and not all of it for the better. Cars everywhere. Restaurants took pride in serving bottled water. Plastic shopping bags were the norm.

What was missing were the recycling and cleanup efforts I have to come to expect from municipalities here. Evidently, every society has to make and learn from the same mistakes.

This reflection leads me to believe that green is a measure of how little adverse impact we have on nature. Looking at it that way, every little thing that I do to reduce impact counts as a step towards becoming greener. Do I really need that new product, even if it’s marketed as “green”? Should I throw away something or will someone else be able to use it? Does it really make sense to talk about the environment using a “market metaphor“?

As we have seen, there’s no single way to becoming “green”. We started down the path of a consumerist society a long time ago and we’re not going to go back to the cabin at Walden any time soon. Nor should we have to. Surely we can find a middle ground between agonizing about the environment and being callous about destroying it.

Victor V


5 Comments so far
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I completely agree with you about consumerism being a main cause for the waste that has accumulated in landfills. It’s interesting to me to think about a time like you talk about. Today people would scoff at the idea of eating off of a leaf, or wrapping food in newspapers. “It’s not sanitary”, would be the main argument against those ideas.
However, as society has evolved into a community where everything has to be pre-packaged to avoid germs, we are ironically pumping waste and harmful chemicals from all of the package production back into our ecosystem, that eventually goes full circle and ends up in our foods and drinking water anyways. I suppose people find it easier to not think about that.

You should read the blog, 365 Days of Trash. ( http://365daysoftrash.blogspot.com/) The blog is written by one man, who decided to not have any trash for an entire year. It’s interesting to read about the hurdles he had to jump over, and the thought process went through to make this happen in a consumer driven society.

-Jenni Brown

Comment by jennibro

Please use this link to view 365 days of trash. I accidentally had an extra character in the above link. http://365daysoftrash.blogspot.com/

Thank you,

Comment by jennibro

Jenni, Thank you for the comments. It is incredible that not only are we adding to the pollution, but actually endangering our lives by the very act of trying to protect ourselves.
And thanks for posting the link to that blog (365 days of trash). It was fascinating to read and ponder about all the things that we take for granted.

Victor V

Comment by victorvi

Your point is very insightful. I adopted a child from rural Ukraine seven years ago, and I lived in a rural town in the middle of the country for two weeks. That experience was much like you describe growing up. People cooked from fresh ingredients, shared with family and friends and lived with a limited number of possessions.

People I met admired the opportunities and “things” we had in America, and many strived to have those things as well. I think it will be a challenge around the world to redefine consumerism. When we as Americans have been gleefully consuming, it will not sit well to tell countries coming up that they can’t have that. And, who says America even gets to say that.
–Holly Eitel

Comment by hollyee

Great point, Holly. I think sometimes the resistance that a person faces when talking about environmental issues is very similar to your point about us lecturing others on consumerism. The ‘unconverted’ question our motives unless we can walk the talk ourselves and do it consistently.

Thanks for the comment.
Victor V

Comment by victorvi

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