The Rise of the 'Light Greens'


The New York Times takes a swipe at the eco-bourgeoisie; those who fight environmental degradation by buying biodegradable Armani shirts (apparently such things actually exist) and a hybrid Lexus. The upper-class environmentalist might, the Times explains, "Drive to the airport, where [they] settle in for an 8,000-mile flight— careful to buy carbon offsets beforehand—and spend a week driving golf balls made from compacted fish food at an eco-resort in the Maldives."

And this has some traditionalists—the O.G.s of the movement—in a lather. For "at this moment of high visibility and impact for environmental activists," writes the Times, "a splinter wing of the movement has begun to critique what it sometimes calls 'light greens.'" And now the activists of the "old school" are shifting the goalposts on us; demanding that consumers not only buy environmentally friendly goods, but that we also reduce the amount of whatever it is we are buying:

It's as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell's moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil's food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories.

The issue of green shopping is highlighting a division in the environmental movement: "the old-school environmentalism of self-abnegation versus this camp of buying your way into heaven," said Chip Giller, the founder of Grist.org, an online environmental blog that claims a monthly readership of 800,000. "Over even the last couple of months, there is more concern growing within the traditional camp about the Cosmo-izing of the green movement — '55 great ways to look eco-sexy,' " he said. "Among traditional greens, there is concern that too much of the population thinks there's an easy way out."