And the Color of the Year Is...
December 23, 2006 | Thomas L. Friedman | New York Times
I know that you should never generalize about global warming from your own weather, but as a longtime resident of Washington, D.C., it's hard not to, considering that it's been so balmy this winter season I'm half expecting the cherry blossoms to come out for Christmas. In fact, my wife was rummaging through her closet the other day and emerged to tell me she needed a whole new wardrobe — "a global warming wardrobe," clothes that are summer weight but winter colors.
For this, and other reasons, had I been editing Time magazine I would not have opted for the "you" in YouTube as Person of the Year — although that was very clever. No, I'd have run an all-green Time cover under the headline, "Color of the Year." Because I think that the most important thing to happen this past year was that living and thinking "green" — that is, mobilizing for the environmental/energy challenge we now face — hit Main Street.
For so many years the term "green" could never scale. It was trapped in a corner by its opponents, who defined it as "liberal," "tree-hugging," "girly-man," "unpatriotic," "vaguely French."
No more. We reached a tipping point this year — where living, acting, designing, investing and manufacturing green came to be understood by a critical mass of citizens, entrepreneurs and officials as the most patriotic, capitalistic, geopolitical, healthy and competitive thing they could do. Hence my own motto: "Green is the new red, white and blue."
How did we get here? It was a combination of factors: Katrina, Al Gore's terrific movie, the growing awareness that our gas guzzlers are financing the terrorists, preachers and rogue regimes we're fighting, the real profits that major companies like G.E. and DuPont are making by going green, and the fact that even the Pentagon has given birth to "Green Hawks," who are obsessed with powering our army with less energy.
The most telling sign was the last election, when "being green became pragmatic," said the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. "No one thought that running an ad on alternative energy was something for an elite target audience anymore. The only debate we had was whether it was one of the three things a candidate should talk about or the only thing."
And now, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has earned its black eyes for labor practices. But the world's biggest retailer lately has gotten the green bug — in part to improve its image, but also because it has found that being more energy efficient is highly profitable for itself and its customers.
Wal-Mart has opened two green stores where it is experimenting with alternative building materials, lighting, power systems and designs, the best of which it plans to spread to all its outlets. I just visited the one in McKinney, Tex. From the big wind turbine in the parking lot and solar panels on key walls, which provide 15 percent of the store's electricity, to the cooking oil from fried chicken that is recycled in its bio-boiler and heats the store in winter, to the shift to L.E.D lights in all exterior signs and grocery and freezer cases — which last longer and sharply reduce heat and therefore the air-conditioning bill — you know you're not in your parents' Wal-Mart.
Other big companies are now sending teams to inspect the green Wal-Marts, and customers are asking the manager how they can adopt these innovations at home.
"When I started having people stop me in the aisles and say, ‘How do I do that?' or ‘Can I do that?' that's when we really started realizing that this isn't just a small thing, this can be really large and can be very rewarding to the planet," said the store's manager, Brent Allen.
Hey, the more energy-saving bulbs Wal-Mart sells, the more innovation it triggers, the more prices go down. That's how you get scale. And scale is everything if you want to change the world, but to achieve scale you have to make sure that green energy sources — biofuels, clean coal, and solar, wind and nuclear power — can be delivered as cheaply as oil, gas and dirty coal. That will require a gasoline or carbon tax to keep the price of fossil fuels up so investors in green-tech will not get undercut while they drive innovation forward and prices down. The U.S. Congress has to stop running from this fact.
Because while our embrace of green has finally reached a tipping point, the tipping point on climate change and species loss is also fast approaching, if it's not already here. There's no time to lose. "People see an endangered species every day now when they look in the mirror," said the environmentalist Rob Watson. "It is not about the whales anymore."
Two Angry Moms on Good Morning America
Two Angry Moms is a Marion Institute-sponsored documentary film that asks the question: What happens when two “fed-up” moms [Dr. Susan Rubin and film-maker Amy Kalafa] try to create a revolution in America’s school lunch program. Amy and Susan will appear on ABC’s Good Morning America, Thursday, December 7. Tune in from 8:00 am EST onwards, if you agree that our kids should have the option to eat wholesome, nutritious food in schools.
The store is open.
CDs and DVDs from both the 2005 and 2006 Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change conference are now available.
Turning Poverty into Peace
What the Nobel Peace Prize means to Muhammad Yunus - and how it shows the way new ideas come into the world. [read more]
One of this year’s Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change plenary sessions featured a “Gaia-logue” – a collaborative interchange between science [represented by Lynn Margulis and Stephan Harding] and the humanities [represented by John Lash, principle author of the Marion Institute-sponsored Metahistory.org]. Maggie Lee documents this already legendary exploration of what moderator Ian Baldwin calls “an immense ocean of sentience.” [read more]
Lash’s most recent book Not In His Image just received a glowing review by Los Angeles Times writer and author Jonathan Kirsch. What’s more, favorable reviews of Not In His Image, like the one in which Lorin Kee calls John’s work “the most important book of our time” have been gathering at Amazon.com. Click here and scroll towards the bottom of the page to read Kee’s and other reviews.
Bring in the Green Cat
“I've been a regular visitor to China since 1990,” writes Thom Friedman, “and here's what strikes me most: Each year that I've come here, China's people seem to speak with greater ease and breathe with greater difficulty. [read more]
Fry Away Home
It is too easy to blame McDonald's, Exxon, and other corporations for the damage they do. Sure, they mold our consumption patterns and financially benefit from them. But we need to take individual responsibility. If enough of us demand healthier food, and are willing to pay for it, we could get it. [read more]
The Transmission of Consciousness
Philosopher, spiritual teacher, and author Dr. Dario Salas Sommer is a strikingly passionate advocate for the teacher-student relationship. He is rekindling a mystical teaching known as Hermeticism, which first emerged in the temples of ancient Greece and has been conveyed from one generation to the next by living transmission from master to disciple. [read more]
We’re looking for a few good planet healers
The Marion Institute is seeking to add to our stalwart group of local volunteers. For more information about how you can join our team and help heal the planet and its inhabitants, please email Desa Van Laarhoven, our Director of Membership.
WITTs, YOYOs, and Why Americans Don't Go Green
After more than 35 years since the birth of the modern environmental movement, the major green nonprofits cumulatively engage only 3 million to 4 million Americans -- the roughly 1% of Americans who appear on the groups' mailing lists. A group called ecoAmerica -- "the first environmental non-profit with a core expertise in consumer marketing" -- is looking to change all that. [read more]
Walking the talk
The Marion Institute is constantly striving to become as sustainable as possible. One way we’re working to lessen our impact on the planet is to offer members our signature “Quarterly Mailer” as a PDF or digital document.
Presenting the Quarterly Mailer as a PDF will greatly reduce waste, oil and CO2 emissions not to mention staff time and postage costs. The PDF document offers flexibility: allowing people the option to read the articles online, print only the pieces that are of deep interest, or print the entire Mailer.
If you would like to receive the Quarterly Mailer as a PDF document, please place your full name [and the email address that you wish to receive the Mailer at] in the body of an email and send it to email@example.com. We realize the printed Quarterly Mailer is a great tradition of the Institute. For those that are not yet online – or simply wish to continue receiving the hard- copy version of it in the mail – we will honor their desires and will continue to provide other ideas for our members to help heal the planet – and its inhabitants.
“One day our grandchildren will go to museums to see what poverty was like.”
- Muhammad Yunus