Inauguration Eve in DC – Showing my tag which reads: “Black Is The New Green!”
2009 is off to a roller coaster start. For me, and millions of Americans, it kicked off January 20th in Washington on a cold but clear D.C. day.
Flying into the nation's capitol for 26 hours of witnessing history, and attending Al Gore's Green Ball (see photo of "New Arrival" poster at the National Portrait Gallery), was an absolute thrill.
But the high, and the honeymoon, did not last long as we've dipped deeper into financial gloom. The malls are quiet, foreclosure and bankruptcy lawyers are busy, and the banks suddenly need our help (and I thought all those bounced check fees were enough!).
So just when we finally get a President who never misses an opportunity to talk about renewable energy, who has broken color barriers, and who gets "green", we're all struggling to stay out of the red! But the green lining in the black cloud is the swift shift into downwardly mobile gear.
Simplifying, saving, and a back-to-basics approach that would have seemed unthinkable even a year ago, is the new Zeitgeist. For the first time in America, bigger is not better and shopping as a national pastime is at least for now, a thing of the past.
This is the type of tipping point that’s hard to imagine, and harder to predict. The confluence of events shifting global financial markets, altering the energy landscape and changing personal habits, seemingly overnight, is rapid and rough enough to make Malcolm Gladwell’s head spin!
So what do we now? Hold our breath? Wait for the other shoe to drop?
Well, at least we’re not being told to just go shopping, although the closing of wallets is part of the problem…and part of the solution.
Construction is down and home sales are declining meaning far fewer Americans are buying new furniture, window treatments and appliances. Even renovation projects have been put on hold faster than customer service can say “just a moment”.
Challenging and painful as the economic downturn is to millions of Americans, the flip side of that coin is less stuff is being consumed, constructed and commissioned and that’s easier on our environment.
It’s too bad that it takes something like this perfect storm of events to
get us, cold turkey, off our addiction to shopping, schlepping and spending. But since it has, let’s look at the bright side.
Our appetites for bingeing are at least temporarily curbed and our tendencies to overeat, drink and spend are tempered by the sobering reality that this is not just a momentary blip. The financial gurus tell us we’re in for a spell of economic turbulence that may be long enough to make us stop, look in the mirror, think and hopefully, make a mid-course correction in the American Dream of bigger, better, badder, and at any cost.
As James Kunstler wrote in a recent article entitled “Poverty Of Imagination":
“Peak energy has combined with the diminishing returns of over-investments in complexity to pull the “kill switch” on our vaunted “way of life” - the set of arrangements that we won't apologize for or negotiate. So, the big question before the nation is: do we try to restart the whole smoking, creaking hopeless, futureless machine? Or do we start behaving differently?”
It is with that hope for a new safer, saner and more sustainable way of living, that I invite you to join me On The Green Front for conversations that inform, inspire, and just might help turn this sinking ship around.
Last week's program featured Jennifer Gray, co-founder of Transition Towns in America, an informed and integrated approach to addressing climate change, peak oil and need for community. Find out why this movement has taken off in the U.K, and is taking hold in the U.S.
We also met Rob Wheeler, founder of Campaign For A Sustainable America and learned why his project made the Top Ten list with voters at change.org.
For more great conversations about conservation, I hope to “see” you on the internet, Thursdays at 1pm pst and archived at voiceamerica.com’s Green Talk Channel.