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Go Green: The Big Picture for Climate Change and Healthy Living

Updated on November 30, 2012

The big picture of Go Green includes reversing global warming and eliminating the toxins that are poisoning us and creating cancer epidemics and other diseases.

Environmental Disaster and Ecological Collapse

What would it be like if the United States were hit with two big problems, an economic crisis and an environmental disaster, at the same time? We already know the answer to that question - because it has already happened. The Great Depression began in October 1929 with the crash of the stock market, and lasted a decade because of the Dust Bowl, which was the worse environmental disaster in history. It still holds that record as of 2012, but something bigger could come along at any time.

The challenges of Earths environment can seem so vast that a galaxy seems simple by comparison.
The challenges of Earths environment can seem so vast that a galaxy seems simple by comparison. | Source

The Many Dimensions of Go Green

The Go Green movement is seeking to solve ongoing, deep problems that have been getting worse for over 100 years. We are locked into a cycle where problems build up to a crisis, and then blow up. If we want to truly grasp the whole problem, we need to look at seven different issues:

  • Centuries of Problems: We need to look at the problems Go Green is trying to solve, primarily toxic waste and global climate change, and see how they have developed over centuries.
  • 150 Years of Solutions: American society (and others around the world) have been trying to solve these problems for 150 years, and we've learned a lot about stewardship, preservation, conservation, and ecology.
  • Government Policies and Politics: We need to understand the ideal Green government policies, and the political and advocacy work that is trying to put them into place.
  • Guiding Philosophy: We need to look at the development of the guiding philosophy behind Go Green, and at the dangers of that philosophy being misunderstood, ignored, or co-opted.
  • The Solutions are Up to Us: Green economics, construction, engineering, and marketing provide some opportunities for making a real difference, a lot of useless stuff, and a lot of scams. The movement will not go anywhere, but we can make progress using some of what it offers.
  • Root Causes and Real Solutions: The root causes of the problems Go Green is trying to solve lie in the structure of our society. And we are developing solutions slowly, over centuries. Will we get there in time, or will we fall into the gap?

This article takes a brief look at each of these issues. In each section, there is a link to a longer, more comprehensive article on the topic.

Feel free to read these articles in the order shown here. It makes sense to me. But also feel free to browse around. The topic is overwhelming. It is best if we take care of ourselves by taking it in slowly and learning at our own pace. Ecology is all a great circle, and each piece of the puzzle is valuable in itself.

Jungle burned for farming in Southern Mexico. Modern deforestation is much faster than it was in ancient times.
Jungle burned for farming in Southern Mexico. Modern deforestation is much faster than it was in ancient times. | Source

Centuries of Problems

To succeed, the Go Green movement should address these nine issues:

  • Deforestation and environmental destruction for economic growth
  • Habitat destruction used to support expanding human population
  • Extinction of species
  • Mass extinctions and environmental collapse
  • Invading species destroying environments
  • Rapid spread of disease creating epidemics and possible pandemics
  • Environmental toxins creating long-term dangers to land and water
  • Air pollution and disruption of the ozone layer
  • Global warming, also called global climate change

In addition, these nine elements of environmental destruction interact with one another. For example, the cost of recovering from hurricanes like Sandy gets more expensive as population grows. Also, with population growth, there are zoning and regulatory problems. Two years ago, friends of mine lost their house in Vermont. The part of the house built 75 years ago remained standing. But all of the extensions were swept away. Why? Because they were built in the flood plain of the river. Their destruction was inevitable - it was just a matter of time. But, due to population pressure, many houses and businesses are being built in areas that are inevitably flooded every 50 or 75 years. Meanwhile, sloppy implementation of drainage regulations north of San Antonio, Texas creates annual flooding during the rainy season. The same flooding is prevented by simple regulations in the downtown area.

When houses are destroyed and lives are lost by flood or hurricane, everyone blames the weather. But the weather is not to blame, even if it is getting more chaotic. The loss of life, and the emotional dislocation and billions of dollars of property destruction are created by short-term thinking, greed, political pressure, and poor maintenance, not by the weather. We constantly create disasters waiting to happen. Then, when disasters happen, we blame the weather.

To learn more about how humanity has been changing the environment and adapting for hundreds and thousands of years, you can read Global Warming and Toxic Waste: Issues and History of Go Green.

The wonders of nature touch our hearts and minds, but our heartless, mindless actions destroy the wonders of nature.

Vernal Falls, Yosemite

The painting hangs in the White House
The painting hangs in the White House | Source

150 Years of Solutions

Until European civilization saw the vast wonders of the North American continent, it had never really occurred to anyone - at least not for long - that human beings change their environment, and can destroy it. But the people of overcrowded Europe seeing the vast wild lands of North America began to see that nature has a profound impact on our hearts and minds, and that our heartless, mindless actions destroy nature's gifts. From this, the conservation and preservation movements were born. These were valuable to some degree, but our understanding was not deep enough yet. In 1970, with the advent of Earth Day, the ecology movement added depth to our understanding and a new sense of our participation as a species living in an environment called nature.

Preservation and conservation arose in an attitude of stewardship - taking good care of nature and her resources. Ecology gave us a sense of connection, and the opportunity of conscious participation.

The Green Movement is a resurgence of these ideas. But those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Let's learn the history well so we can ensure that our values and knowledge are up to the task of changing the way we live in the world to make human civilization sustainable. You can begin learning more by reading Conservation, Preservation, Ecology & Go Green: History & Lessons.

Ralph Nader, Green Party Presidential Candidate, 2000


Green Government and Politics

The ideals of the Green movement are high: healthy life for all people, animals, plants, and places; world peace; freedom for all; social and economic justice, and more.

But the political power is small. In the US, the Green Party has never won an election at the Federal level, only a handful at the state level, and a few hundred at the local level.

If Green policies are coming into place, it is more by advocacy, that is, activism, than by election. Fortunately, there are many groups doing good Green activism, most of them older than the Green movement itself, and many connecting Green issues with other important issues of today's world.

To learn more, please read Green Government & Green Politics in the US; Is Go Green a Go?

Does Go Green Have a Guiding Philosophy?

This article opens by exploring the dangers of not having a guiding philosophy - movements can falter, make a wrong turn, or even become co-opted. Looking at Go Green from this perspective, we see that, as the ecology movement influenced a wide variety of areas - energy, economics, construction, engineering, and marketing - it got diluted, becoming very pale Green.

The title of the article asks if Go Green is a scam. But Go Green is not just one thing. It is a whole bunch of things, all influenced by an awareness that is quite old and wise. Few people can keep the big picture in mind. Instead, people insert their small biases and companies assert their self-centered, often greedy, agendas. The result is that Go Green is not a movement at all, but a smattering of scattered scams and wonderful ideas.

To learn more, please read Going Green: Is it for Real, or is it a Scam?

Green Solutions Are Up to Us

Even though the Green movement is inspired by profound philosophies and informed by solid science, it is not a coherent movement. It is scattered, and also open to bias and even intentional co-opting by greedy companies. If we want to go Green, we're going to take the lead, not follow an established movement.

That's good, actually. Going Green means a deep shift in our life. We stop being consumers. We become creative people who live true to ourselves. Here are the steps:

  1. Change Your Heart. Going Green begins with respecting and caring for Earth as our home.
  2. Learn Every Day. Earth Day was created in 1970 as a teach-in. Create your own ongoing learning program. There's a lifetime of learning here, and it's not just about picking up ideas. We learn to think for ourselves and empower ourselves for the next step, taking action.
  3. Take Action: Both one-time actions and changes of daily habits are part of creating a non-toxic Green life with a small carbon footprint. Some things we do alone, some things we do with others. Follow your heart, use your learning to make wise choices, and be the change you want to see in the world.
  4. Celebrate! Living in joy on this Earth is the heart of going Green. Joyful people do not need expensive, high-energy, toxic distractions. Simple living is full of celebrations!

To learn more and see examples of each of these steps, please read Can Go Green Solve Global Warming and Toxic Pollution?

Clip from the 2007 Documentary: The Eleventh Hour

Root Causes and Real Solutions

Civilization, as a whole, is stumbling forward. As it stumbles, it destroys the world we live in, the world we rely on for food, air, and health. Human activity has led to the extinction of species and the change of entire ecosystems for tens of thousands of years.

But now, as a result of technology that harnesses electrical power and creates toxic chemicals, environmental destruction is happening much faster. And some of the changes are ones we may not be able to adapt to.

Picture civilization as a car driving down a road. The driver is blind drunk. He's trying to steer straight, but his reactions are too slow. So he constantly veers off the road and crashes. Then he has to stop and rebuild his car before he can go forward. And the natural habitat around the road has to deal with gasoline spills, fires, and destruction from the crashes. Civilization, as a whole, is the car.

If civilization is to survive, it must learn to drive with its eyes open. But nations are mixes of competing corporate, political, and religious interests, and international cooperation is rare. To end the cycle of environmental crisis, we will need global cooperation and powerful vision. That is the topic of the final hub in this series (as of December 2012), Go Green: Root Causes of Climate Change and Toxic Waste Problems.

Can We Go Green in Time?

Can we go Green in time to prevent more environmental disasters, or even pandemics, ecosystem collapse, and social collapse? This is a tough question, and one we must face, for avoidance and denial keep people doing the same old destructive things.

It's also a tough question because truly solving these centuries-old, global problems requires steady centuries of work by all of humanity. As one human people coming together, we've never done anything this large for this long.

Yet individual acts are the beginning of all social change. And we are well on the way.

Let's face this gigantic problem squarely, do what we can, and stay peaceful and joyful as we put our hearts, hands, and voices to the task.

To learn more, please read Go Green in Time: Stop Climate Change & Clean Global Environment.

Mahatma Gandhi

We can remain joyful, even in the deepest struggles.
We can remain joyful, even in the deepest struggles. | Source

Be the Change

The root problems of environmental crisis are: Climate change, global toxicity, and the cycle of crises as humans alter the natural world and live with the consequences. These problems will not be solved in a four-year political term, in a decade, or even in our lifetimes.

But that is a good thing. We people need purposes larger than ourselves. We need to learn foresignt, and to open our hearts to living in love. Our environmental challenges teach us what we most need to learn.

The problems are large. We should think even larger. Rather than thinking in terms of solving the problems, let's think in terms of becoming part of a living solution that will grow over many generations. Let's keep the seventh generation to be born after us in mind in every decision we make. More importantly, let's celebrate life and share health and peace with all the world.

As Mahatma Gandhi put it: Let's be the change we want to see in the world.


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