The Problem with Green ~ the need for a new literacy

Co-authored with Neil Cousins of Five Oceans Environmental Services Limited.

The ubiquitous use of the word “green” as a proxy for sound environmental endeavour, for energy efficiency, for all sustainable ambition has devalued the proposition it was meant to reflect. Being “green” can apply equally, it seems, to a tree hugger (in itself a term of derision or condescension) or a government (recall a certain prime minister aspiring to lead the greenest government ever). Yet, because of its hijacking by all sorts of spurious groups and intentions, the word “green” has become a liability.

An essential ingredient of good governance is the assumption of an innate trust between those who govern and those who are governed. The chaotic and sometimes deceitful use of the word “green”, the tendency for it to be switched on or off as the mood swings, and the general assumption that it is a panacea for all things has reduced its trust value. Worse, the word “sustainable” prefixes any action that we want to be “green”. Neither is adequately defined, yet each is used randomly by government, the media and the non-governmental organisations, without a sound basis and, seemingly, without thought.

We need a new literacy: a more rational basis for referring to all things “green” and “sustainable”.

The Problem With Green
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