By Sherry Ackerman
Sometimes the verbal landscape of environmentalism is hard to navigate. People make sweeping claims about environmentalism as if it were a cohesive, comprehensive ideology. This is not true. There are basically three distinct, and radically different, positions in the environmental discussion, which I shall refer to as “dark green,” “light green” and “bright green.”
There is also a rather unpleasant faux, which I shall call “green-washing.”
Dark Green environmentalism maintains that existing civilization is inherently damaging to the environment and cannot become sustainable without massive systemic changes, such as a rejection of consumerism and an emphasis on the development of self-sufficient, local communities. The most extreme dark green environmentalists reject civilization and advocate a return to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Critics of the dark green perspective claim that it is too pessimistic of modern civilization’s ability to adapt to environmental challenges.
At the institutional level, the Dark Green NGOs, such as Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth, seek radical social change to solve environmental problems, most often by confronting the corporate sector. As American futurist Alex Steffen puts it, they tend to “pull back from consumerism (and sometimes even from industrialization itself).”
Light Green environmentalism gave birth to the phrase “Go Green.” This shade of environmentalism is focused on the private actions of individuals, such as choosing to use reusable bags instead of plastic bags.
The idea is that small changes in the lives of many individuals will encourage environmental responsibility and make the public more responsive to greater changes. Critics of the light green perspective claim that it overstates the ability of individuals to make a difference in a worldwide issue, that it is only feasible for those individuals that are wealthy enough to spend more money for environmentally-friendly products, that it ignores larger systemic environmental problems, and that the public may come to ignore demands for lifestyle change.
Bright green environmentalism is an ideology based on the belief that the convergence of technological change and social innovation provides the most successful path. 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. Critics of the bright green perspective claim that it assumes it is possible to create non-polluting versions of existing polluting technologies.
On the institutional level, the Bright Green NGOs – such as Conservation International and the Environmental Defense Fund – work within the market system, often in close collaboration with corporations, to solve environmental problems.
Finally, there is the ersatz green-washing. The term green-washing refers to disinformation disseminated by an organization in order to present an environmentally responsible public image – when, in fact, they are not adhering to best practices at all. In this faux technique, companies and/or organizations use buzz-words such as “sustainable” to tap into environmental markets when, in fact, they are anything but environmentally oriented. These are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
• Shasta Commons is a network organization whose mission is to encourage a resilient and thriving local community. They are overseeing the Community Sustainability column in Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers. For more information, visit the website www.mountshastacommons.org/

By Sherry Ackerman Sometimes the verbal landscape of environmentalism is hard to navigate. People make sweeping claims about environmentalism as if it were a cohesive, comprehensive ideology. This is not true. There are basically three distinct, and radically different, positions in the environmental discussion, which I shall refer to as “dark green,” “light green” and “bright green.” There is also a rather unpleasant faux, which I shall call “green-washing.” Dark Green environmentalism maintains that existing civilization is inherently damaging to the environment and cannot become sustainable without massive systemic changes, such as a rejection of consumerism and an emphasis on the development of self-sufficient, local communities. The most extreme dark green environmentalists reject civilization and advocate a return to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Critics of the dark green perspective claim that it is too pessimistic of modern civilization’s ability to adapt to environmental challenges. At the institutional level, the Dark Green NGOs, such as Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth, seek radical social change to solve environmental problems, most often by confronting the corporate sector. As American futurist Alex Steffen puts it, they tend to “pull back from consumerism (and sometimes even from industrialization itself).” Light Green environmentalism gave birth to the phrase “Go Green.” This shade of environmentalism is focused on the private actions of individuals, such as choosing to use reusable bags instead of plastic bags. The idea is that small changes in the lives of many individuals will encourage environmental responsibility and make the public more responsive to greater changes. Critics of the light green perspective claim that it overstates the ability of individuals to make a difference in a worldwide issue, that it is only feasible for those individuals that are wealthy enough to spend more money for environmentally-friendly products, that it ignores larger systemic environmental problems, and that the public may come to ignore demands for lifestyle change. Bright green environmentalism is an ideology based on the belief that the convergence of technological change and social innovation provides the most successful path. 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. Critics of the bright green perspective claim that it assumes it is possible to create non-polluting versions of existing polluting technologies. On the institutional level, the Bright Green NGOs – such as Conservation International and the Environmental Defense Fund – work within the market system, often in close collaboration with corporations, to solve environmental problems. Finally, there is the ersatz green-washing. The term green-washing refers to disinformation disseminated by an organization in order to present an environmentally responsible public image – when, in fact, they are not adhering to best practices at all. In this faux technique, companies and/or organizations use buzz-words such as “sustainable” to tap into environmental markets when, in fact, they are anything but environmentally oriented. These are wolves in sheep’s clothing. • Shasta Commons is a network organization whose mission is to encourage a resilient and thriving local community. They are overseeing the Community Sustainability column in Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers. For more information, visit the website www.mountshastacommons.org/