Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Green Economy

Birth of the Cool by artist James Yamada. Steel, iron, compost, worms. Part of the exhibit Greenwashing: Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities.

Yesterday launched the month of green. With Earth Day in April, we're bound to be bombarded with a host of articles and reports about the state of the global ecology.

Last night, Van Jones appeared on the Colbert Report. One of the more articulate people I've met, Jones was the first person who made the connection for me between poverty, race, and the environmental movement. Jones believes we can salvage our cities and save our economy by investing in alternative fuel and training a new generation for jobs that will help society as well as the planet. Jones talked about the concept behind green collar jobs and his non-profit, Green for All, which has the mission to "build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty." You can watch the video online. And you can hear an incredible speech by Jones that was given in Baltimore last year by clicking here.

I saw something else on TV last night, an ad for Subaru. A serene-looking man dressed in shades of green and khaki wanders through the woods while birds chirp and deer prance about. He tells us:

"You're looking at Subaru of Indiana. It's more than just an auto plant, it's a role model for the environment. There’s zero landfill and nearly everything is recycled. And it’s been designated a wildlife habitat."

He goes on to mention standard all-wheel drive and to suggest that the "neighbors" (meaning those deer) think it is the best car company around. Here is a link to the commercial itself.

From Subaru's webpage. Wait, where are the cars? And the highways?

Also from the Subaru website: Auto Plant. Waterfowl. Deer. Car. Any irony in the fact that most cars and deers meet in unfortunate collisions on highways?

After watching who I believe to be a true role model, Van Jones, it was funny to hear a car company claim to be a role model of the environment. It is an interesting juxtaposition, one that car companies like to make. The Subaru plant, the company tells us, creates zero waste. Unless, of course, you include the very product it produces. This is almost as bad as the car commercial that shows an SUV sprouting from the very earth while a wood nymph dances around it in wonder.

The other thing that car companies love to do is show you all the ways you can be in nature while in their cars. Land Rover is probably the most egregious.

Look! You can scale pristine coastlines!

Why walk when you can drive? Throw it into 4 WD and blast your way to Mont Saint-Michel in France! "Have you ever?" the car company asks. I can just see the Europeans watching the SUV kick up sand on approach to the historic landmark. "Have you ever!" they say.

Can we move towards a more green economy when the current economy co-opts the concepts of green? There's a new exhibit in Turin, Italy, that explores this concern. GREENWASHING. Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities includes 25 artists who question our current relationship with the environment and the pervasive and subtle ways in which cultures and countries skew the conversation to support the status quo. "What is at stake in today's constant bombardment of ecological guilt, corporate agendas and political point-scoring with respect to so-called 'environmental issues'?" the exhibition organizers ask. "How can we balance personal responsibility with collective consensus, local with global, or short-term remedies with visionary strategies?"

Public Smog (2004–ongoing); Project documentation, looping Flash animation by Amy Balkin. Her practice "examines how humans interact with their social and physical environment, often focusing on issues of speculation and public access to common resources," according to the exhibition website.

As Van Jones described the possibility of a green economy on last night's show, as he talked about reducing our reliance on foreign oil and training inner city kids to install solar panels and become renewable energy engineers, Colbert suggested that for this to work, the country would first need a president with strong ties to the solar industry.

Ettore Favini's Green is the Color of Money (2007). Digital print on canvas.