February 1, 2010

Green Problems

As an urban planner I've been following the green movement with interest and fascination for years. I think the goals of the green movement make sense for both the country and the world. What distresses me is that green is, for the most part, being marketed to yuppies. It makes perfect sense to market it to them. Yuppies have more disposable income and tend to be more liberal than the population at large. From a business standpoint they are the green movement. The problem is yuppies aren't trend setters.

Yuppie recruitment is taught in economic development courses as a preferred method of revitalizing a struggling urban neighborhood. How do you get yuppies to  move into a crappy neighborhood? One method is to bring in artists. Yuppies like being able to say they do interesting things. Living in a community with a robust art community is one such way. From an urban planner's standpoint one method of attracting yuppies to a place isn't to recruit the yuppies but to recruit artists. Find a non-profit and some funding to revitalize some derelict warehouse and turn it into artist studio/living space and you're on your way. What do artists like? Cheap rent. What do yuppies like? Artists. From the urban planner's standpoint it's a win-win. You attract much needed capital to the neighborhood and you can say you did it by supporting struggling artists. Then you can tell yuppie people (women) that you worked hard to redevelop an old warehouse because you believe in the power of art. Let's be honest, urban planners are generally yuppies too. It works well and its not hurting anyone. But it isn't helping everyone, either.

It isn't attracting new people to the city. It's attracting people that were already city-bound. How do you get the masses to move back to cities? How do you get the masses to "go green"? The answer is getting away from high social ideas and moving to more practical ones. I don't want to see another commercial that says my energy efficient window helps save the planet. I want to see commercials that say my dryer will save you an ass-load of money. That will speak to the American people far more than global warming ever will. The answer isn't all of us uniting around a campfire and vowing to become better citizens of the planet. The answer is in the economics. Green has to be re-branded and re-priced to become appealing to everyone or the difference it makes will be negligible. Well my social rant is over, time for a latte.
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Image taken from: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/56/115007676_98faff6509.jpg

5 comments:

  1. I agree. Entirely. Until we can market "going green" in a more appealing way, we'll struggle to make any real progress. Make it economically appealing, and you're likely to make headway. Add to it a social appeal (perhaps being green is cool...celebrities do it...wastefulness is ugly, etc.) and we've got a win. I don't know much about urban planning or revitalization, so I'm staying mum. But what you say makes sense.

    Hope your latte is in a reusable cup, mister.

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  2. People are "talking green" so it is working, but slowly.

    Secretia

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  3. You hit the nail on the head. Getting people involved in community gardens and teaching kids at an early age about environmentalism are some things that I have seen in my very diverse neighborhood to be making a noticeable difference. Getting kids out of the city and into nature is also huge - how can you respect what you have never seen? Last year President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea visited our Woodlawn Community Garden, which includes a Children's Learning Garden (adjacent to the school) and it was huge. In a low income, highly diverse neighborhood where white is the minority, it is beautiful to see everyone's excitement! Also the Portland Farmer's Market is finally starting to come into lower income areas - originally catering to foo-foo areas, they are waking up and realizing that EVERYONE needs fresh produce :)

    PS - There is a really good chapter in Ecopsychology, one of my favorite books, about this topic. I wrote about this last fall as well on my blog with some good links if you are interested: http://ecogrrlnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/10/environment-psychology-racism.html

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  4. I second all of that. Going green is really expensive, I would be more inclined to go green if I could afford to do so. Good post, enjoy your latte.

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  5. Christopher, I'd like to say to everyone "leave the sceptisism and take action!"
    I loved this post!
    Thanks for your comments, I really liked your views and perepective.
    Have a great day!

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