Sunday, August 17, 2008

Green: The Color of Imagination

I may be the only aspiring eco-blogger out there to read the Wall Street Journal.  My husband brings a spare copy home from the office because, while I've never worked in anything remotely connected to finance or industry, I find it fascinating.

Anyhow, in Friday's edition, Stephen Moore took on the recycling movement, calling the environmental benefits minimal, noting that we'd never run out of landfill space in the US and predicting that the proposed cap-and-trade anti-global warming system would save a lone polar bear and bring the global economy skittering to a halt.  He is not a fan of Lexus liberals, people he suspects are more into green as a means to feel good than saving the planet.

And you know what?  Some of his accusations are valid - especially that bit about people who freak out if you fail to recycle your Evian bottle while visiting their 4,000 square foot starter castle with the three-car garage.

But what baffles me is the implication that we should just stop with all this nonsense.  Should we fine people for failing to separate their trash?  (It's been proposed in San Francisco, and it's what set Moore on his screed.)  Maybe.  I have worked in local government, and the thought is not dazzling in its absurdity.  What's more interesting, though, is the possible world waiting as a result of bigger greening technologies.

There's a fortune to be made, folks.

I've been reading Brian Dumaine's The Plot to Save the Planet and what comes through loud and clear is that creating solar panels or windows that can turn the average home from an energy-consumer to an energy-producer are not far away.  Odds are that any company that can take it to market will make money - oodles and sacks full of coin - on a green innovation.  After all, even the most die-hard anti-consumption type probably has solar panels on their wish list.  That's just one of Dumaine's many examples of how green greed could allow a visionary entrepreneur to make a bundle while doing good.

It's already happening.  How many of us regularly trek to Whole Foods with our reusable shopping bags and feel just great about paying top dollar for more responsibly produced products?  Odds are that some of us drove a Lexus to the parking lot, sure, but let's not overlook the bottom line:  we're buying better and the business model works.

When I think of a greener planet, I think of one that is also healthier, saner and more productive.  We might have less stuff, and our stuff might be made of different materials, but that's not the same as saying we'll all be foraging for berries on self-governed communes talking about the bad old days of indoor plumbing.

As Franklin said, plenty of people dismissed electricity as a passing fad.  If we could go back far enough, a couple of cavemen probably scoffed at fire.  Green technology isn't just the province of a couple of aging hippies dreaming of Woodstock - it's the new world, and it represents a powerful, profitable opportunity that should not be dismissed.

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