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Better to rethink than to recede

In 18 short months, green consumption has gone from being a fringe activity to a mainstream philosophy

A lot has changed in 18 short months. In that time, green consumption has gone from being a fringe activity to a mainstream philosophy and is rapidly coming to be seen as commonsense.

Four years ago, two young environmentalists, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, outraged environmentalists the world over with their essay The Death of Environmentalism, in which they argued that the negatively-geared politics that raised awareness of acid rain and smog doesn’t cope so well with global warming. Instead, they advocated for a way of thinking focused on possibilities, not limits.

I have some sympathy for their approach. Currently most of the conversations we hear revolve around cost reductions, savings and not doing things. However, I struggle to see most people stopping how they live now and going back to ‘traditional’ ways. And maybe that’s not the real opportunity anyway. Maybe we should be moving the message and focusing on lives of natural abundance rather than lives based on rationed resources.

Recently-published research by NMI shows the LOHAS (lifestyle of health and sustainability) trend remains strong in the US among those committed to global restoration. It’s still a movement given to voicing its opinions and urging companies and individuals to pull back from what it sees as irresponsible behaviour.

In Western Europe, though, where there is stronger mainstream engagement with sustainability, there is more diversity in the environmental debate. In a few countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, there seems to be wider uptake of exploring ‘green’ technical solutions within the mainstream.

Clearly  the traditional approach is not the only game in town and could actually jeopardise the wider world’s ongoing engagement in green behaviour. By contrast, it does make sense to suggest that more people are more likely to lend their support to ideas that enhance how they live. Do we dare to think that the time for saving the planet is over? Is now the time to be thinking about solutions that contribute to our planet instead?

Let me leave you with this to consider: NMI estimates the current US green business-to-consumer market to be around US$209 billion per annum. They expect this number to double by 2010 and double again in the next ten years. Can you afford to ignore this opportunity?