Bright green environmentalism
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Origin and evolution of bright green thinking
The term bright green, coined in 2003 by writer Alex Steffen, refers to the fast-growing new wing of environmentalism, distinct from traditional forms. Bright green environmentalism aims to provide prosperity in an ecologically sustainable way through the use of new technologies and improved design.
Proponents promote and advocate for green energy, electric automobiles, efficient manufacturing systems, bio and nanotechnologies, ubiquitous computing, dense urban settlements, closed loop materials cycles and sustainable product designs. One-planet living is a commonly used phrase. Their principal focus is on the idea that through a combination of well-built communities, new technologies and sustainable living practices, quality of life can actually be improved even while ecological footprints shrink.
Around the middle of the century we’ll see global population peak at something like 9 billion people, all of whom will want to live with a reasonable amount of prosperity, and many of whom will want, at the very least, a European lifestyle. They will see escaping poverty as their nonnegotiable right, but to deliver that prosperity at our current levels of efficiency and resource use would destroy the planet many times over. We need to invent a new model of prosperity, one that lets billions have the comfort, security, and opportunities they want at the level of impact the planet can afford. We can’t do that without embracing technology and better design.
Dark greens, light greens and bright greens
Light greens see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. They fall into the transformational activist end of the spectrum, but light greens do not emphasize environmentalism as a distinct political ideology, or even seek fundamental political reform. Instead they often focus on environmentalism as a lifestyle choice. The motto "Green is the new black" sums up this way of thinking, for many. This is different from the term lite green, which some environmentalists use to describe products or practices they believe are greenwashing.
In contrast, dark greens believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized, capitalist civilization, and seek radical political change. Dark greens believe that currently and historically dominant modes of societal organization inevitably lead to consumerism, overconsumption, waste, alienation from nature and resource depletion. Dark greens claim this is caused by the emphasis on economic growth that exists within all existing ideologies, a tendency sometimes referred to as growth mania. The dark green brand of environmentalism is associated with ideas of ecocentrism, deep ecology, degrowth, anti-consumerism, post-materialism, holism, the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock, and sometimes a support for a reduction in human numbers and/or a relinquishment of technology to reduce humanity's effect on the biosphere.
Contrast between Light Green and Dark Green
Jonathan Bate in The Song of the Earth feels that usually there will be deep divisions in a theory. He feels that one group is “light Greens” also known as “environmentalists” who see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. The other group is “dark Greens” also known as “deep ecologists”. In contrast, they believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized civilization, and seek radical political changes. This can be simply stated as “Know Technology” vs “No Technology”. (Suresh Frederick in Ecocriticism: Paradigms and Praxis)
More recently, bright greens emerged as a group of environmentalists who believe that radical changes are needed in the economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable, but that better designs, new technologies and more widely distributed social innovations are the means to make those changes—and that society can neither stop nor protest its way to sustainability. As Ross Robertson writes,
[B]right green environmentalism is less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the "tools, models, and ideas" that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions.
While bright green environmentalism is an intellectual current among North American environmentalists (with a number of businesses, blogs, NGOs and even governments now explicitly calling themselves bright green—for instance, the City of Vancouver's strategic planning document is called "Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future"), it is in Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, that the idea of bright green environmentalism has become most widespread and most widely discussed. For instance, the official technology showcase and business expo for the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen was called Bright Green in reference to this idea, while the Danish youth climate activism movement is called Bright Green Youth.
- Ecological modernization
- Efficient energy use
- Environmental technology
- Hydrogen economy
- Post-scarcity economy
- Renewable energy commercialization
- Viridian design movement
- Whole Earth Discipline, a 2009 book by Stewart Brand
- Shear, Boone (2011). "Bright Green Environmentalism". In Newman, Julie (ed.). Green Ethics and Philosophy: An A-to-Z Guide. SAGE Publications. p. 39. doi:10.4135/9781412974608.n14. ISBN 9781412996877.
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- "Bright Green Living wiki mission statement". socialtext.net. (Note: Wiki is inactive.)
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- "Vancouver Makes a Bright Green Future its Official Goal". Worldchanging.com. 20 October 2009. Archived from the original on 2014-02-18. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
- Steffen, Alex Nikolai (1 May 2006). "The Next Green Revolution". Wired. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
- Lacey, Josh (16 March 2007). "Go Bright Green" (Book review). The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
- The Viridian Design Movement