Monday, 6 October 2008

September 2008 - Cultural responses to Climate Change, based on Science or (Pop) Art?

At the start of September, Powai a northern suburb of Mumbai, India had a contest to honour the greenest woman they could find and launched the title “Mrs Green”. Take a look at the full details on the Planet Powai community website ( Elsie Gabriel who had the original idea for the contest reckons:

“Ladies across the nation are energized about issues concerning environmental habits, global warming, garbage, alternative fuels, and other environmental topics. Home makers, grand moms or even working women, all are driving the sustainability movement, studying related topics, encouraging people to recycle, and proclaiming the green word!”

What appears online as a charming but culturally-specific event for “Green Ladies” also shows the outside viewer that “the green word” travels and people round the world, want to be involved, they Wannabe* Green.

* I should explain, I mean Wannabe as in; want to with passion the term coined by the Spice Girls, the Pop Group who in the video Wannabe (1996) gave a glimpse of the possibilities of radical change (honestly) as they are seen storming the establishment, running around shaking things up and then getting the bus out again with their integrity in tact – for those Girls it was not Wannabe like them, but Wannabe like US for not being like them! (

For the record, when you scour the internet looking for leadership and inspiration for Wannabe greens in 2008 (98 Months to go), the results are disappointing. You get… Geri Halliwell at last year’s Live Earth. If you have 2 minutes to waste, watch Geri ‘talking’ about the environment (I won’t give it away by telling you if she does say something profound or not, have a bet with yourself… in your own head

You know, taking a September look at the Indian “Mrs Green” and the brilliant yet flawed Geri does draw, interesting question marks about Green Identity Politics and our cultural readiness in Britain to do the necessary in 100 months. We know that we have to MOVE TO a lower carbon economy so a broad based cultural MOVEMENT is vital, and Spice Girl chutzpah and “Mrs Greens’” will be needed to achieve it, but it has to be focused as well and free of self publicity and green wash. There was less than positive news on this question from research written up in the media in September, a study found (from a small sample) people that recycle and save energy are more likely to fly so rendering themselves carbon big foot’s, not the green hero’s they appear – to themselves maybe and others. (

This suggests that your Wannabe Greener needs information, a Movement means shared objectives, and I should remind myself that Climate Change has a fundamental basis in science – and its vital, smart people say to keep the science in mind along the way. To inform the MOVE way beyond the acceptance moment, where an individual decides on the balance of science that yes Climate Change is happening. There are frameworks for doing this of course including Footprints, Planets and the Carbon Bottom Line (George Marshall).

If we should measure our Greenness individually, the next step perhaps is having it monitored by others- as it was mooted in September that eco town residents could:

If eco town monitoring is done purely on the Carbon Bottom Line I have no problem, but to be too prescriptive about how people meet the Carbon Bottom Line, would be to ignore the power in people and groups facing the challenges in their own way. The pursuance of a monoculture based on oil and driven by consumption is the reason that Climate Change is on us so quickly, so we shouldn’t try to solve the problem with that same way of thinking, a diversity of culturally appropriate responses to Climate Change (with eyes on the Bottom Line) may prove the most effective and sustainable direction of travel – with the option of some Girl Power as well.


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