Bright green environmentalism

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Bright green environmentalism is an ideology based on the belief that the convergence of technological change and social innovation provides the most successful path to sustainable development.

Origin and evolution of bright green thinking[edit]

The term bright green, coined in 2003 by writer Alex Steffen, refers to the fast-growing new wing of environmentalism, distinct from traditional forms.[1][2] Bright green environmentalism aims to provide prosperity in an ecologically sustainable way through the use of new technologies and improved design.[3]

Proponents promote and advocate for green energy, electric vehicles, efficient manufacturing systems, bio and nanotechnologies, ubiquitous computing, dense urban settlements, closed loop materials cycles and sustainable product designs. One-planet living is a commonly used phrase.[4][5] Their principal focus is on the idea that through a combination of well-built communities, new technologies and sustainable living practices, the quality of life can actually be improved even while ecological footprints shrink.

Around the middle of the century we'll see global population peak at something like 9 billion people, all of whom will want to live with a reasonable amount of prosperity, and many of whom will want, at the very least, a European lifestyle. They will see escaping poverty as their nonnegotiable right, but to deliver that prosperity at our current levels of efficiency and resource use would destroy the planet many times over. We need to invent a new model of prosperity, one that lets billions have the comfort, security, and opportunities they want at the level of impact the planet can afford. We can't do that without embracing technology and better design.[6]

The term bright green has been used with increased frequency due to the promulgation of these ideas through the Internet and recent coverage by some traditional media.[7][8][9]

Dark greens, light greens and bright greens[edit]

Alex Steffen describes contemporary environmentalists as being split into three groups, dark, light, and bright greens.[10]

Light Green[edit]

Light greens see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. They fall into 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.[10] The motto "Green is the new black" sums up this way of thinking, for many.[11] This is different from the term lite green, which some environmentalists use to describe products or practices they believe are greenwashing, those products and practices which pretend to achieve more change than they actually do (if any).

Dark Green[edit]

In contrast, dark greens believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized, capitalist civilization, and seek radical political change. Dark greens believe that currently and historically dominant modes of societal organization inevitably lead to consumerism, overconsumption, waste, alienation from nature and resource depletion. Dark greens claim this is caused by the emphasis on economic growth that exists within all existing ideologies, a tendency sometimes referred to as growth mania. The dark green brand of environmentalism is associated with ideas of ecocentrism, deep ecology, degrowth, anti-consumerism, post-materialism, holism, the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock, and sometimes a support for a reduction in human numbers and/or a relinquishment of technology to reduce humanity's effect on the biosphere.

Contrast between Light Green and Dark Green[edit]

Jonathan Bate in The Song of the Earth feels that usually there will be deep divisions in a theory. He feels that one group is “light Greens” also known as “environmentalists” who see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. The other group is “dark Greens” also known as “deep ecologists”. In contrast, they believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized civilization, and seek radical political changes. This can be simply stated as “Know Technology” vs “No Technology”. (Suresh Frederick in Ecocriticism: Paradigms and Praxis)

Bright Green[edit]

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 stop nor protest its way to sustainability.[12] 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.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shear, Boone (2011). "Bright Green Environmentalism". In Newman, Julie (ed.). Green Ethics and Philosophy: An A-to-Z Guide. SAGE Publications. p. 39. doi:10.4135/9781412974608.n14. ISBN 9781412996877.
  2. ^ Steffen, Alex (August 6, 2004). "Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Reports from the Team". Archived from the original on 2015-01-01. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  3. ^ Adamczyk, Monika; Ryu, Jae Hyung (September 22, 2006). "Green schools show New Haven students the light". The Yale Herald. Vol. XLII, no. 3. Archived from the original on October 15, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  4. ^ "Bright Green Living wiki mission statement". (Note: Wiki is inactive.)
  5. ^ Steffen, Alex (21 April 2006). "On Earth Day". Archived from the original on 2016-01-24. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  6. ^ Cooper, Arnie (April 2010). "The Bright Green City – Alex Steffen's Optimistic Environmentalism". The Sun.
  7. ^ Schechner, Sam (March 21, 2008). "Will 'Bright Green' Bring Discovery The Long Green?". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on July 11, 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  8. ^ Weise, Elizabeth (2008-04-23). "Ed Begley acts on his eco-beliefs". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  9. ^ a b Robertson, Ross. "A Brighter Shade of Green—Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century". Archived from the original on 2013-04-03. December 2007
  10. ^ a b Steffen, Alex (27 Feb 2009). "Bright Green, Light Green, Dark Green, Gray: The New Environmental Spectrum". Archived from the original on 2016-01-12. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  11. ^ Menkes, Suzy (April 17, 2006). "Eco-friendly: Why green is the new black". International Herald Tribune. London. Archived from the original on May 9, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2021. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Don't Just Be the Change, Mass-Produce It". September 12, 2007. Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 3 October 2016.

External links[edit]