Category Archives: Betsy’s columns

You say you have Green Fatigue? That is soooo tiresome…!

Well maybe YOU don’t suffer from
“green fatigue” – if you did you probably wouldn’t be reading
this but it is a term I’ve heard tossed about in the past few months
and each time I hear it – though it goes by other names as well; “green
“green saturation”, “green overload”,
etc.  – each time I want to turn red with anger.

Picture by Christina Koci Hernandez

Why does that so infuriate me? As a relative newcomer to the “old
guard” environmental activists – I’ve only been at this a dozen years –
I am well aware of the pain that accompanies being marginalized by a
culture that would, until recently, rather fight ecological reality and its many danger signs in the form of denial, than switch
to a more sustainable way of living. 

Up until last year, being green
in a black and white world was akin to being a Communist, enemy
infiltrator, or both.  Actually it often felt more like being a martian
from another planet, a planet where to waste was a crime, and to
conserve was a virtue, and not a freaky habit adopted by hippies and
social agitators on the fringes of mainstream American society. 

So what happened? The price of fuel topped three dollars a gallon and
the slumbering masses awoke with a sharp jolt to the pocketbook and a
belated hangover, complete with a sobering rethink of the almighty SUV
as our national vehicle of choice. 

Dying oceans, peak oil,
disappearing species and melting glaciers were no match for the rising
price on a gallon of gas. Seemingly overnight, the masses were outraged
and suddenly open to new alternatives, both as a source for fuel, and
as lifestyle change.  Combine that with the triple hit of Hurricanes
Katrina, Wilma and Rita and you have a perfect storm of factors that
finally launched the Great Eco-awakening.

And just in time…the grim statistics don’t need recitation here, you
know we’re doomed. Unless, unless we wake up now…today…and begin to
turn this sinking ship of a planet towards the bright light of a
newly-popular sun. Embracing renewable energy like solar, wind and
geothermal is the new Holy Grail, tempting and yet – until now –
elusive enough to seem more green dream than reality. 

So now that the world is waking up to the planetary perils we face, and
people across the globe see that a true sea change is needed – before
the sea changes us – suddenly we hear from some predictable corners;
the mainstream media, fickle consumers and Sunday pundits that the
green movement has peaked and its 15 minutes of fame are passing.

that I say “why green
fatigue when the new eco-consciousness – so hard-fought and long in
coming – is still in its infancy, still in (chlorine-free) diapers?”
How is it that a nation so obsessed with sports, sex, stars (the
Hollywood type) and the stock market is now tired of hearing about
global sustainability, a topic that has been on the front pages for
about five minutes in comparison?

To them I say  “Take your Green Ennui
and shove it!”.  If sustainable survival is merely a passing fad – as
some would have us believe – than I say we humans will be the same; a
transient species that brought itself to the brink of greatness, only
to get buried in its own greed, shortsightedness and well-honed denial.
If it really is all about trendiness than maybe we have indeed – like
our oil – peaked.

An Inconvenient Truth on KCBS

Betsy about An Inconvenient Truth on KCBS.
LISTEN (1 min)

It’s Painful Being Green


Kermit was wrong, it’s not easy to be green. Thanks
to the waste prevention gene I seem to have been born with, daily life in the
world’s most wasteful nation has been a constant assault on my senses. I’m
pretty sure I’ve had this affliction since birth, that somehow my DNA contained
an extra “conservation” chromosome. I know I’m not the only one with this
chronic condition but it is all too rare, and unfortunately not infectious.
That’s part of the reason our planet is in critical condition.

3_earth_shoesLooking back I can recall how this gene, which I’ll call CYW
(for Cut Your Waste), was first manifest when I was in the second grade. That’s
my first conscious memory of a cringe reflex when I noticed kids in my class
throwing away most of their lunches, lovingly packed by unsuspecting Moms. Call me strange, but I had
a visceral reaction to witnessing perfectly good food, and even plastic bags,
being trashed. It seems I knew back then, intuitively somehow, that there was
no throwing it “away", that somewhere out of sight, in a mountain of garbage,
lay unwanted, rejected, and barely-touched items that were destined to die a
slow and undignified death through no fault of their own.

You might be starting to think I’m nuts, feeling compassion for
inert objects like untouched food, barely used paper or perfectly good wire
hangers. I too think it’s strange, especially knowing how few Americans would
relate to such an acute sensitivity to unnecessary wasting. But other than this
odd distaste for waste , I’m a fairly normal middle-aged wife and mother.


I actually feel its other people who are weird for not sharing my aversion to unnecessary
waste, thinking there’s nothing wrong with the trashing of barely-used
resources in a country that, literally, has so much at its disposal.

It’s not just the junk mail, newspaper supplement ads (not
to mention the double plastic wrap most papers come dressed for your driveway
in) and all the other stuff, including the requisite packaging. Now that
I’m older, my compassionate conserve-a-tism cells are fixated on other precious
resources we’re taking for granted…primarily clean air, water and oil. And what
ever happened to droughts and the energy crisis? We can’t remember because of
our short attention spans…

So, I ask…am I the only one who wonders why car lots and
office towers have their lights on all night when nobody’s home? How about the
air conditioning blasting in a store with the front doors wide open? An office
or home where computers and stereos are left on whether anyone’s using them or
not. If more people could see the pollution that comes from coal and oil
powered electricity plants to make all this consumption possible, they’d surely
go solar, or at least turn out the lights behind them.

Am I the only armchair eco-sociologist who has pondered why
it is that so few of us are nearly fanatical about recycling and composting our
waste, while the vast majority of Americans are what I call COD’s – Complacent,
Oblivious and in Denial? Several of them work in my newsroom and seem to enjoy
teeing me off by throwing their lunch waste into the “paper only” recycling
bin. Like it’s just my environment they’re polluting?

Over the years it hasn’t gotten any easier. As convenience
clashes with conservation, our on-the-go lifestyles have piled up the trash
faster than ever. I can only hope science grows just as rapidly, and that one
day they’ll come up with a way to isolate the CYW gene and clone it! In the meantime, don’t let anyone tell you
“It’s Easy Being Green” – first they should walk a mile in my Earth shoes. 

UNWED left me unglued

The first-ever-in-the-U.S. United Nations World Environment
Day was a true green letter event, held appropriately in the city voted the
greenest in the land.
There were many
highlights: Accords were signed by more than 100 cities pledging to take three
positive environmental steps per year and two dozen Mayors added their names to
a Kyoto-like agreement drafted by  Seattle’s
Mayor Greg Nickels after the three driest winters in the rainiest city’s

Even Mr. Hummer himself, The Governator, came out with a bold new
initiative for reducing California’s
greenhouse gases over the next 20 years, although he failed to renounce his own
fleet of gargantuan gas guzzlers. But in the end, was UNWED a watershed event
or just another green blot of ink on the road to sustainability?

What may make the difference was an energized Al
Gore, sounding like a born again eco-evangelist as he delivered three speeches,
complete with a flashy powerpoint presentation demonstrating the already
documented effects of climate disruption.
Gore, of course, has been a longtime
environmentalist – except, some would argue, when it mattered most – during his
presidential campaign in which he became bewilderingly quiet about global
warming (as would the next Democratic
candidate for President, John Kerry).
Both likely fell victim to campaign
handlers catering to the concerns of mainstream America
which never ranks the environment in the top ten list.
But back to “the former
next President of the United States

as Gore introduced himself. “Humanity is
on a collision course with the planet,” he railed, shaking his fist to
punctuate our “planetary emergency.”
It’s not that the information he presented was new to both
the Birkenstock activists, and later well-heeled gala dinner crowd on the last
evening of the conference. Rather, it was the repetition of so many frightening
facts, graphs and photos depicting diminishing ice sheets and a spiking global
population, ever hungrier for food and fuel, that left us reeling.
pictures-don’t-lie speech was delivered with anger, humor and most of all, a
passion rarely associated with the “stiff and wooden” former Vice
President. One can’t help but ask,
“Where was this green urgency when he was in the White House? Why did Gore and
his former boss Clinton wait until they left power to become such good foot soldiers for the
environment?” Scratch, scratch.

Many of us who were “lucky” enough to see it first hand (and
have not slept well since) left feeling as though life as we know it will never
be the same. I heard more than a few
attendees suggest “He take his show on
the road” to awaken the slumbering masses. And so he may, in the form of a
documentary being funded by the likes of Laurie David (wife of Larry) and her
crowd of producers, pundits and part-time activists. As David said at the gala
dinner, they’ve already raised funds for the film, which will chronicle Gore’s
20-year environmental crusade (minus the crucial 8) across America.

Think Al Gore meets Michael Moore and hope for blockbuster crowds munching on
partially-hydrogenated buttered popcorn.

So three weeks after this historic event what has changed?
For one thing, the bad news buzz has begun to leak outside of the usual crowds.
Several of my non-eco friends remarked over lunch last week that “They’ve now
determined that global warming is real” ( –psst, pass it on, along with the
new-found angst!). And before the ink on the accords was dry, an official with
the Bush administration was caught doctoring documents, downplaying the links
between greenhouse gases and climate change (and just who do they think
they’re fueling?). The local version of
Kyoto now has more than 160 Mayors pledging to have their cities do their part to
combat climate change.

Last but not least, my friends are finally beginning to
understand what made me leave daily journalism and a formerly active social life behind to Green the Red and Blue
States One Show At A Time.

I just
haven’t been able to check “Save The Planet” off my to-do list yet.

So now that there’s evidence the COD’s (Complacent,
Oblivious and in Denial) – as I call US, – are starting to hear the canaries
singing, the country may be reaching a tipping point on recognition of the
unfolding crisis.
The only problem is that if Gore, Gelbspan (Ross Gelbspan,
author of “Boiling Point,” the treatise on Global Warming) et al, are correct,
we’re going to quickly go from critical mass to critical mess and
that has some of us a bit Unglued.


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