Greenwash or not…

Check out this glossy video from Conservation International

Interesting message isn’t it.

Nature doesn’t need us folks, but we really need her. In fact we will die unless we pay attention. Nature will persist whatever we throw at her for she can adapt and evolve.

Even a nuclear holocaust would see some microbes survive and allow nature to resume her business of converting energy and nutrients into biology.

Now this is quite a shift for most conservationists. Their usual message is preservation and protection. Save the rhino, that specific one right there on the savanna, and not just rhinos in general. The admission that nature doesn’t care if there is a rhino or not is heresy.

When I mention similar things to conservationists I usually get my head bitten off — Awkward News for Greenies was not a best seller.

Just recently I pointed out to a gentleman that whilst I could agree that we are in a mass extinction event, nature sees these all the time — at least six big ones in geological history — and yet she manages to come back with more diversity than before. The current mass extinction began with more species on the planet than ever.

More significantly, nature really does not care about how many species are lost. She will meander along providing a space for evolution to work its magic and create new species to replace those that go extinct. Admittedly that takes time, but it will happen.

He was not happy at all with that.

So why would Conservation International get in some famous voices and throw a bunch of money at slick presentations of this message?

There are similar Conservation International pieces on oceans, water, soil and Robert Redford as a redwood

The message is similar in all of them. We can do what we like and nature couldn’t care less. But rape and pillage her and we are the ones in trouble.

Clearly Conservation International are trying to say it is all about us. About people and the choices we make. Watch all these pieces in sequence and you will start to feel just a little guilty, maybe a lot guilty.

That is an interesting tack. Hone in on emotions and personal integrity. Imply that it is personal responsibility, or our lack of it, that will determine our collective future.

And they are right.

Ultimately patterns of resource use, levels of pollution, biodiversity loss, and a host of specific environmental issues are the collective effect of individual decisions people make.

Only they are forgetting one crucial thing. Do we actually have a choice?

In the economic system that we live under it is very hard to choose integrity and live in the system. Go off grid and grow your own might work for some, but there is nowhere near enough space for us all to do it. Use less, buy less and only what you need is possible but again it is hard not to leave a hefty footprint even from modest consumption — take one plane ride and you have just about shot your embedded energy quotient.

And what of the billion or so people who live in poverty, they actually need more resources not less. The billion rich folk could give up a lot but the net resource use wouldn’t go down that much.

Pause for a moment and think greenwash — the talking up of an activity to claim environmental or green credentials when in reality there is none.

This message could just be the ultimate greenwash, a brilliant ruse by corporations to externalize their impacts by shifting their responsibility onto individuals. It is the customer’s fault.

Sorry Ms Roberts, I don’t buy it.

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