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Can Go Green Solve Global Warming and Toxic Pollution?

Updated on November 30, 2012

Short Movement, Long Term Issues

The Go Green Movement seems to have popped up quite suddenly. And yet it is trying to solve problems that have been growing for over 100 years. Can Go Green really make a positive difference?

Our Home

We're not going anywhere else soon, so let's take care of the one home we have.
We're not going anywhere else soon, so let's take care of the one home we have. | Source

Go Green: Is it really trying to solve anything?

We want to believe that, by going green, we will be part of the solution for global warming and also for the poisoning of the environment which is creating more disease and cancer for us people, as well. But are the actions encouraged by the Go Green movement really effective?

The first question is: What is the real purpose of the Go Green movement. That is addressed in full in another article: Going Green: Is it for real, or is it a scam?

Here, we will assume that the intentions behind Go Green are basically good. Even so, as the old saying goes, the road to H-E-double-hockey-sticks is paved with good intentions. This article will look at the actions that Green Consumers and Green Citizens can take to make a positive difference. And the right action may be not the one that is advertised!

Let's first take a look at the long-term issues the Go Green movement should be addressing if we want to survive personally, survive as a civilization, and have a healthy world to live in. After that, we'll look at whether major Go Green initiatives will make a difference.

Go Green: Follow the Hype, or Lead From the Heart

There is no question that the core philosophy and original intention of the Go Green movement means well. There is also no question that the Green advertising and recommendations we see as consumers often serve corporate interests rather than helping the environment. Other ideas are well-intended, but based on poor or incomplete research.

If you truly want to Go Green, you can't do it by being a consumer, or by being a follower.
Our society, as a whole, has not changed heart or changed direction. Businesses are still out to make money, and advertisers and promoters are still willing to fool themselves, and to lie. If you buy products labelled "Green" or "eco-friendly," or if you follow the Green Movement recommendations, then you will be making very little difference for yourself and the world. You will still be putting your own health at risk and you will not be building a better world for your children.

That's okay. Go Green can still work.

It's just this: You have to make it work. Each one of us as to make it work. As discussed in the article , a movement without a guiding philosophy is either useless or dangerous. The Green Movement contains great stuff, but it has no coherent guiding philosophy. So, to use it well, we must provide our own. We can go truly Green in one simple way: Take responsibility for ourselves and what we do, and become Green leaders in the way we live.

The first step is a change of heart. Decide how you truly feel about planet Earth. Do you see yourself as a consumer? Or do you see yourself as a steward, working as the conservationists and preservationists did? Or do you see yourself as a conscious participant in a living planet, an ecosphere we call home, Gaia, or Mother Earth.

The second step is a change of mind. Learn, and keep on learning. That brings knowledge.

The third step is action. As Dan Millman says, "The difference between knowledge and wisdom is doing it."

And our home, this Earth, will become a healthy and safe home for us once again as each person has a change of heart and begins to live wisely in relationship to our world.

Think Globally, Act Individually, Act Locally

Think Globally, Act Locally is a profound maxim from sociologist Rene Dubois, and is very much part of the healthy worldview of ecology.

Right now, though, to make it work, we have to add a step in the middle: Think Globally, Act Individually, Act Locally

Because we can't be sure of any group's direction, we must commit to our own direction. We must say, "I will live as a good steward of Mother Earth, no matter what anyone else does." Once we do this, then our next step is to act as individuals. As we do this, people will gather around.

When groups gather, some will be local. Others will be national or global, over the Internet. Be a world citizen, and join with other world citizens. Then the wisdom of Margaret Meade will kick into gear: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

All Green to Go!

Love Green, Think Green, Live Green, Share Green

Caring for Chimps, Caring for the World

Dr. Jane Goodall listening to volunteers about their group of Root & Shoots, her international organization for sustainable life for indigenous people, endangered animals, and us all.
Dr. Jane Goodall listening to volunteers about their group of Root & Shoots, her international organization for sustainable life for indigenous people, endangered animals, and us all. | Source

Step 1: Change Your Heart

If you are reading this article, there is a fair chance that you have already made a change of heart about the environment, or you have started to. Either way, at least once a year, make a serious re-assessment, with just two question:

  • What relationship do I really want to have with Mother Earth? Do I want to be a consumer, a steward, a conscious participant?
  • Am I doing what I want? Are my best thoughts, beliefs, and feelings moving through consciousness and thought, and into action in a reliable way?

Changes of heart tend to fade away. The best expression I've ever seen of this is in the movie All That Jazz. It's an autobiographical drama by director Bob Fosse beginning with his open-heart surgery. Facing death in surgery, he has a spiritual opening of the heart. He comes back to life and makes a commitment to use Hollywood to make movies that have profound spiritual messages. There is no question that his vision and inspiration are genuine. No one around him can really cope with this change, and life moves forward. A few months later, at the end of the movie, he's back to making the same old popular, meaningless stuff. A friend asks him, "What about that promise you made to make only meaningful movies." The character representing Fosse says, "Oh, I was just kidding." And, at that moment, he believes it. And we also know that, though it is his truth now, he has lost the deeper truth that came with an open heart and a vision.

We must renew our connection to our vision each year, each season, each week, and ultimately each day and each breath. Change your heart. And be aware and connected; don't forget and let it change back.

Step 2: Learn: Earth Day Every Day

The original Earth Day in 1970 was designed as a national Teach-In. Well, I encourage each of us to take one day a week, not just one day a year, to read an article, or a chapter of a book, or more, and learn about environmentalism, ecology, conservation, and preservation. Study the issues and the solutions, and make up your own mind. The list of issues is above, in this article. For the solutions we've been growing for the past 150 years, you can read my article Conservation, Preservation, Ecology & Go Green: History and Lessons. If you want your next step for free, read the articles in this list of environmental issues on Wikipedia.

Two tips for learning:

  • Let your heart guide your learning. Learn as feels right to you: Review many issues, or focus on just one. Think in terms of your own action and life, or learn how to get involved in Green politics. Let your heart guide your thinking, and your life.
  • Learn to move into action. Don't keep it all in your head. Move on to the next step even while you are learning: Take action and change habits.

Start Small

Start with small changes, and turn them into habits. That way, when you face big decisions, like whether to buy a hybrid car, or even whether to have a child of your own or to adopt (possibly the deepest Green choice most people will make), you will be ready to think Green and think big at the same time.

Step 3: Take Action and Create New Habits

So, here you are: Your heart is calling you to make a difference, and your mind knows the action that will really make a difference. Now, the rubber hits the road: It's time to move into action.

There are two types of actions. Some actions you take just once, and they make a lasting difference. Other actions need to become daily or weekly habits. Both are valuable. I'll use my own efforts at energy conservation at home to show how both work.

I chose to reduce how much energy I use both to save money, and also to reduce my carbon footprint by using less electricity.

One Time Changes

I took a look up in my attic, and discovered that the previous owner had done a poor job insulating up there. In Florida, that's expensive. I learned about new, non-toxic Green insulation. Because my crawl space is very low, I chose blown-in insulation. I did a trade with a handyman for help. I gave him some coaching, and then, working together, we blew in a new, thick layer of eco-friendly insulation. It took us about 3 hours, end to end. And it reduced my electric bill by about $50 a month for the entire summer. Now, that insulation is in place, and my carbon footprint will be smaller as long as I live here.

Note that this one-time change required lots of learning. Once the theory gets specific, there's a lot to think about. Insulating a house in Florida is different than insulating a house in Maine. I had to look at cost and time, and at energy savings and toxic and safe insulation products. This is where good study of Green products and services is a big help.

Changes of Habit

Another energy-saving change required a change of habit. We took the thermostat off automatic for both heating and air-conditioning. We bought a few good fans - they're very cheap in the early summer at discount stores - and replaced most of our air conditioning with fresh air blown into the house at the right time of day. We live with our household temperature in the low 80s in the summer and the high 60s in the winter. We feel better in the fresh air. It is easier to go out for a walk, because our bodies are already close to adjusted to the outside temperature. In Florida, if you go for the standard 72° Fahrenheit, you'll be running your air conditioning seven months a year - from May to September. Enjoying 80°, we ran our AC only 4 months this summer, and ran it many fewer hours each day. The savings added up to hundreds of dollars. As for heating, well, it's already the end of November, and we haven't turned on the heater once this year.

Yes, it felt a bit odd at first, lifting fans in and out of windows and lowering shades to keep out the hot sun. All new habits are exciting for a few days, and then odd and strange for about a month. Keep at it: The benefits last a lifetime, and more.

Combining One-Time Changes and New Habits

You'll note that these two changes worked together. Having good insulation in the ceiling made it easier to live with much less air conditioning. Often, our changes synergize, which means that they are easier to do together, and we get more benefit from doing them together.

Don't Get Overwhelmed, and Keep Going

If we try to do it all at once, it is easy to get overwhelmed and give up. But if we take it one step at a time, and keep at it, we'll get great results sooner than we would expect.

Sometimes, we can't afford all the changes we want to make. I'd like to switch to LED lighting in my house, but I can't afford 10 new bulbs at $25 to $40 per bulb, at least, not all at once. But I can afford one new LED bulb per month. And I replace each bulb that burns out with an LED bulb or other appropriate, eco-friendly, low energy light source.

Feeling overwhelmed about habit change? Read this article (one in a series of nine) about Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He was the world expert on habit change.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Changes of Thought and Communal Action

My example of changes at home to save energy was both individual action and also physical in nature. I chose the example, though, purely for your learning. Communal action is just as important as individual action. And changes of thought matter just as changes of activity do.

For example, you might take a one-time action of joining the National Resources Defense Council ( You contribute to an organization seeking to curb global warming, to create a clean energy future, to renewing the oceans of the world, to defending wildlife, and more. And, of course, you sign up for their newsletter. Good work!

Now, your mental habit might be to read that newsletter once a week or once a month. Good work again! You grow and learn.

Now, turn this thought into action: Review their petitions, and sign the ones you believe it. Make your commitment to the petition personal by adding your own thoughts. And move from individual action to communal action by passing along the petition and encouraging others to sign.

You can see a list of organizations that share Green petitions in this article about Green advocacy and activism.

As you see, to make our change of heart come alive, we learn, and then we act with our minds and our bodies, alone, locally, and globally.

Step 4: Celebrate!

Connect with the heart of the world. This may be a matter of prayer, meditation, contemplation, walking in the the woods, or dancing. Whatever works for you. But receiving life joyfully is an essential part of going Green. When we are joyful, we need less, we consume less, and we share our joy with the world, adding to the harmony and balance of life and society.

Celebration is not always easy: Burnout is a much more common state of mind these days. But celebration is a great habit to work on, because it leads to self-renewal. We celebrate when we are joyful. But we can also celebrate as a way of returning to joy.

I'll close with a few inspiring quotes from Margaret Mead to get you into the mood for making a difference and celebrating life:

  • Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
  • I learned the value of hard work by working hard.
  • I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings.
  • Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does dance.


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    • SidKemp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sid Kemp 

      8 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Hi Paul:

      Thanks, these are great questions!

      First, a note: Insulating was not really a big ticket item - it cost me less than $300, if I recall correctly. (One of the greenest things we can do is barter for help!) I encourage people to think small, medium, and big, and I would say that the insulation solution is a medium-sized option.

      Small solutions such as buying organic and/or local, and from small producers when we can are really important. I would suggest a shift of focus. This may sound too Zen, but, if we want to save the world, we must stop trying to save the world. Focus totally on creating a happy, Green life within your circle of control. Don't worry about whether you are influencing other people or corporations. Live a Green life where you are a person (and a citizen, if you like advocacy), and not a consumer. Be the change you want to see in the world.

      Right now, the gap between individual action and the long-term, collective action for decades that will bring real change is so large that we have no idea *how* it will be closed. We can *imagine* a Green world, and we should. We can *live* Green lives, and we should. But we can't plan the link between one and the other. That will require unexpected alchemy. This has been true of every large social transformation in the past. The early Abolitionists didn't know how slavery would end. The folks in the sixties who wanted to get away from cigarette smoke could not know how smoking would come to be banned in most public places.

      Be the change. Stay in your circle of control. After a few years, when that is really solid, either the advocacy and transformational opportunities will arise, or you will be experienced enough to know how to create them.

    • promaine profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      Hi SidKemp. This is a very impressive series. You write here about individual choices, and your example if a 'big ticket' item (insulation). It's excellent. But how do we buy green every day in the shopping aisle or at the greenmarket? Those micro-choices like buying organic (or minimum pesticide) foods and using non-toxic cleaners don't have much of a influence until lots of people do it. Also, should we buy big corporate green products to encourage them to go green? (Or are we just playing their game, and becoming a "niche market" for big companies.) Paul


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