It’s been fascinating to watch the mainstream press discover sustainability over the last few months… and I say that with very little of my tongue in my cheek. Newsweek now joins other major publications by taking a wide look at “Going Green” in the US. From individual efforts to actions by Wal-Mart, Jerry Adler’s article claims that the recent growth of environmental awareness in the US can be attributed to, at least in part, American’s ability to rise to a challenge:
In the face of the coming onslaught of pollutants from a rapidly urbanizing China and India, the task of avoiding ecological disaster may seem hopeless, and some environmental scientists have, quietly, concluded that it is. But Americans are notoriously reluctant to surrender their fates to the impersonal outcomes of an equation. One by one — and together, in state and local governments and even giant corporations — they are attempting to wrest the future from the dotted lines on the graphs that point to catastrophe. The richest country in the world is also the one with the most to lose.
I think Adler’s partly right, although clearly there are still many Americans who’d prefer to push their heads farther into the sand in the face of global warming, loss of biodiversity and other immense challenges. Of course, the profit motive is driving much of this, too, as many American business people (or those with just an entreprenurial spirit) are recognizing the opportunities presented by these challenges. I realize some of us find that distasteful at some levels (I’ve been guilty of it myself), and we certainly need to keep an eye on the corporate world’s embrace of sustainability — transparency must go hand-in-hand with green initiatives. At the same time, though, this is exactly what we’ve been pushing for: waking the business community up to the reality that they can “do well by doing good.” I’ve often lamented the overall face we’ve presented to the world in recent years as unimaginative and even lazy — the types of developments mentioned in this article show that at least some Americans simply aren’t buying into the idea that wasteful exploitation of resources without any thoughts for the future is simply “the way we’ve always done things…”
Certainly we’re a long way from claiming victory, but if magazines like Newsweek think that “going green” is worthy of this kind of attention, we’ve certainly won some battles. More importantly, articles like these serve as great evidence when we’re arguing with people who still don’t get it…