Mother Earth Monday: Shades of Green

Even we greenies don’t agree on everything, so Alex Steffen handily classifies: Bright Greens, Light Greens, Dark Greens and Grays. Here is a quick summary:

What is bright green? In its simplest form, bright green environmentalism is a belief that sustainable innovation is the best path to lasting prosperity, and that any vision of sustainability which does not offer prosperity and well-being will not succeed. In short, it’s the belief that for the future to be green, it must also be bright. Bright green environmentalism is a call to use innovation, design, urban revitalization and entrepreneurial zeal to transform the systems that support our lives.

Light green environmentalists tend to emphasize lifestyle/behavioral/consumer change as key to sustainability, or at least as the best mechanism for triggering broader changes. Light greens strongly advocate change at the individual level. The thinking is that if you can get people to take small, pleasant steps (by shopping differently, or making changes around the home), they will not only make changes that can begin to make a difference in aggregate, but also begin to clamor for larger transformations.

Dark greens, in contrast, tend to emphasize the need to pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialization itself) and emphasize local solutions, short supply chains and direct connection to the land. They strongly advocate change at the community level. In its best incarnations, dark green thinking offers a lot of insight about bioregionalism, reinhabitation, and taking direct control over one’s life and surroundings (for example through transition towns): it is a vision of collective action.

Grays, of course, are those who deny there’s a need to do anything at all, whether as individuals or as a society. They range from the most blatantly dishonest and self-interested people (climate scientists who take oil company money to dispute the clear scientific consensus on climate change, or “contrarians” like Bjorn Lomborg who make up specious “skeptical” arguments in order to make money) to principled, smart people who lack the facts (an increasingly small minority) or whose worldviews are just too set in an earlier way of thinking to understand the present-day realities of living on planet in overshoot.

Understanding the spectrum among us can help us think more clearly about our choices. That might be exactly why the bright/light/dark green discussion has gained so much momentum.

How would you classify your own thinking? What shades are you, and why? Learn more here.