Since 97% of climate scientists believe that global warming results from human activity, targeting the human causes of environmental degradation, such as pollution, CO2 emissions, resource depletion, etc. will be very effective at curbing the threats of global warming and climate change. In approaching an issue of the environment, a policymaker must think about the three main schools of thought on the spectrum of environmentalism: light, dark, and bright green. These three types of environmentalism provide the framework under which policy action will occur.
Light green environmentalism targets consumer behavior, encouraging individuals to make incremental changes in their daily lives to reduce harm to the environment. Examples include reusing your own bags when shopping for groceries, recycling, turning the faucet off when brushing teeth, buying LED certified electronics, etc. This framework has clearly been the foundation for the sustainability movement; however, the lack of urgency for change has instilled fatigue and indifference.
Of the three perspectives, dark green environmentalism has the most pessimistic view of modern society, believing that industrialization, manufacturing, and development have solely negative consequences for the environment. Unlike light greens, this shade targets the community level, emphasizing the need to become self-sufficient, free from technological advancement. However, in a world where modernization and industrialization seem to be the norm, rejecting this trend appears economically regressive, since urbanization/industrialization encourages economic growth.
This term is the most recent of the three, coined in 2003 by Alex Steffen. Unlike light and dark, bright greens emphasize the use of technology to solve the environmental issues. As Steffen states in a more recent post, this perspective calls for “innovation, design, urban revitalization, and entrepreneurial zeal.” Bright greens believe in using green technology that will not harm the environment but will continue the trend of modernization to serve common interests. Clearly, bright green environmentalism combines the best of both worlds — environmentalism and economic development via modernization.
Which framework best serves the interests of the U.S.?
After examining these three frameworks, the United States should operate with the bright green mindset, as it provides not only ecological but economic benefits. Since bright green environmentalism embraces technological innovation, this framework encourages more development in order to solve the environment problem. As such, this framework achieves common goals in modern U.S. society: reducing environmental degradation and maximizing economic production. Even more, embracing this ideology could bring the U.S. out of its more recent economic slump. While bright green environmentalism serves the most effective purpose in modern society, which one do you think is the most effective? Which perspective do you most align with?
Tanner Davis is a research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis.