Thirsting for Green: The Color and Poetry of the Environmental Movement

by Kim   |   June 24, 2009

No Impact Man had a great post today about the way the green movement moves. It may surprise you to realize that it moves much like the rest of modern life: in too many directions at once, and thus, perhaps, not where all those text messages and emails say it wants to go. It's important to stand back and look at the feel of environmentalism, its sounds, textures, and yes, colors. This is the first post in a series that will step back a little from the movement itself, in an attempt to sense where we are and who we are, as we face environmental challenges. After all, quality of life is best not pursued but lived.

Some claim to have "green fatigue" because greenwashing has co-opted the term "green" into something mass-marketed and meaningless. They're casting their eyes to, well, less-green pastures, looking at other colors to symbolize the environmental movement. Some say blue is the next green, while others claim that sustainability is transparent, and thus should not be associated with a shorthand color.

I, for one, like that the environmental movement has a little color. After all, in many city landscapes, green things are in a minority and trees do stand out because of their hue. Color is one of the tools of the poet. And after all, it was a poet like Federico Garcia Lorca who could awaken the world to what a repressive Spainlooked like, smelled like, sounded like. Art, at its core, is always tied to justice. Picasso's Guernica is another way of expressing "collateral damage": while the latter sounds very impersonal, the former conveys a humanity impossible to ignore. For one thing, Guernica is full of eyes staring back at the viewer, while "collateral damage" does not.

Sadly, much of the environmental movement has been criticized for speaking in scientific terms--the which come out as distant, much like "collateral damage," when faces and voices are better at waking us up to climate change. What is the "Guernica" for today's green movement? How can we get to the root of our planet's changing climate? Where is the face of climate change looking back at us?

Federico Garcia Lorca's Romance Somnambulo, has a repeating verse, "Green, how I want you, green," and I think the phrase sums up our modern thirst for green things, whether literally in the form of plants (I'm thinking of dry places out west like Las Vegas where lawns take up valuable water resources) or figuratively in the form of responsible behavior towards the planet. When you think green, what is it that you're thirsty for?