Bright green environmentalism
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Origin and evolution of bright green thinking
The term "bright green", first coined in 2003 by writer Alex Steffen, refers to the fast-growing new wing of environmentalism, distinct from traditional forms. Bright green environmentalism aims to provide prosperity in an ecologically sustainable way through the use of new technologies and improved design.
Its proponents tend to be particularly enthusiastic about green energy, electric automobiles, efficient manufacturing systems, bio and nanotechnologies, ubiquitous computing, dense urban settlements, closed loop materials cycles and sustainable product designs. "One-planet living" is a frequently heard buzz-phrase. They tend to focus extensively on the idea that through a combination of well-built communities, new technologies and sustainable living practices, quality of life can actually be improved even while ecological footprints shrink.
Dark greens, light greens and bright greens
"Light greens" see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. They fall in on the transformational activist end of the spectrum, but light greens do not emphasize environmentalism as a distinct political ideology, or even seek fundamental political reform. Instead they often focus on environmentalism as a lifestyle choice. The motto "Green is the new black" sums up this way of thinking, for many. This is different from the term "lite green", which some environmentalists use to describe products or practices they believe are greenwashing.
In contrast, "dark greens" believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized capitalism, and seek radical political change. Dark greens believe that dominant political ideologies (sometimes referred to as industrialism) are corrupt and inevitably lead to consumerism, alienation from nature and resource depletion. Dark greens claim that this is caused by the emphasis on economic growth that exists within all existing ideologies, a tendency referred to as "growth mania". The dark green brand of environmentalism is associated with ideas of deep ecology, post-materialism, holism, the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock and the work of Fritjof Capra as well as support for a reduction in human numbers and/or a relinquishment of technology to reduce humanity's impact on the biosphere.
More recently, "bright greens" emerged as a group of environmentalists who believe that radical changes are needed in the economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable, but that better designs, new technologies and more widely distributed social innovations are the means to make those changes - and that society can neither shop nor protest its way to sustainability. As Ross Robertson writes, "[B]right green environmentalism is less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the “tools, models, and ideas” that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions."
While bright green environmentalism is an intellectual current among North American environmentalists (with a number of businesses, blogs, NGOs and even governments now explicitly calling themselves "bright green" - for instance, the City of Vancouver's strategic planning document is called "Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future"), it is in Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, that the idea of bright green environmentalism has become most widespread and most widely discussed. For instance, the official technology showcase and business expo for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen is called Bright Green in reference to this idea, while the Danish youth climate activism movement is called Bright Green Youth.
The Viridian Design Movement was an aesthetic movement focused on bright green environmentalist concepts. The name was chosen to refer to a shade of green that does not quite look natural, indicating that the movement was about innovative design and technology, in contrast with the "leaf green" of traditional environmentalism. The movement tied together environmental design, techno-progressivism, and global citizenship. It was founded in 1998 by Bruce Sterling, a postcyberpunk science fiction author. Sterling always remained the central figure in the movement, with Alex Steffen perhaps the next best-known. Steffen, Jamais Cascio, and Jon Lebkowsky, along with some other frequent contributors to Sterling's Viridian notes, formed the Worldchanging blog. Sterling wrote the introduction to Worldchanging's book (Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century), which (according to Ross Robertson) is considered the definitive volume on bright green thinking. Sterling formally closed the Viridian movement in 2008, saying there was no need to continue its work now that bright green environmentalism had emerged.
- Ecological modernization
- Efficient energy use
- Renewable energy commercialization
- The Venus Project
- Future Party (Australia)
- Steffen, Alex (August 6, 2004). "Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Reports from the Team". World Changing. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Green schools show New Haven students the light – The Yale Herald
- Bright Green Living wiki mission statement (Note: Wiki is inactive.)
- "On Earth Day", Alex Steffen – Worldchanging website
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- Weise, Elizabeth (2008-04-23). "Ed Begley acts on his eco-beliefs". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Steffen, Alex (27 Feb 2009). "Bright Green, Light Green, Dark Green, Gray: The New Environmental Spectrum". Worldchanging. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Eco-friendly: Why green is the new black - International Herald Tribune
- "Don't Just Be the Change, Mass-Produce It". World Changing. September 12, 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Robertson, Ross (October–December 2007). "A Brighter Shade of Green: Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century". Ecology, Politics, and Consciousness. What Is Enlightenment?/EnlightenNext Magazine. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- "Vancouver Makes a Bright Green Future its Official Goal". Worldchanging. October 9, 2009. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- "Technologies for Sustainable Growth - Bright Green - DI". Brightgreen.dk. 2009-04-28. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Sterling, Bruce (2001). Viridian: The Manifesto of January 3, 2000. Retrieved 2007-01-28.
- Hughes, James (2002). Democratic Transhumanism 2.0. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- "Viridian notes".
- Steffen, Alex (2006). Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-3095-1.
- "WorldChanging". WorldChanging. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- "Product Category - Journals | EnlightenNext Store". Enlightennext.org. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Bruce Sterling, "The Last Viridian Note", 2008-11-18
- Appropedia, the Sustainability Wiki
- Wiser.org: The Social Network for Sustainability
- The Next Green Revolution – Wired magazine
- A Brighter Shade of Green: Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century – WIE magazine
- "Go Bright Green" – article in the Guardian
- Steffen's own explanation of the difference between bright, light and dark greens
- The Viridian Design Movement