Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

RoseImage by vincent.limshowchen via Flickr

I wanted this post to be about rose bushes. Mostly about how to prune them so they will bud and blossom nicely in the coming weeks. If they don't get pruned and untangled from constraining vines, they may wither and die, which is a shame because roses seem to hold a key to our aesthetic, intellectual, and spiritual satisfaction. Pruning them gives me, in some measure, a great sense of hope for the future.

But as I started writing, I noticed something strange. I clicked on my internet feeds and saw that one of them no longer existed. It was the "green news" link to a major furniture industry trade publication. The journal is essentially the Vogue magazine of home furnishings, and one that virtually commands the direction of the industry. What's more, they have been part of a media conglomerate that owns a vast array of websites and publications related to the furniture industry and building trades.

That's a mighty powerful position to be in.
I looked deeper and noticed that nearly every reference to environmentalism had been purged from the entire database. It was Orwellian, as if I'd awakened to find the word democracy erased from the lexicon - something that mysteriously happened occasionally while searching the internet on business trips to China.

This all seemed inexplicable, until finally I reached a blog post on the publication's site that contained a remarkable conversation filled with boardroom chatter from industry professionals. The comments were as follows: "The profit margin is simply not large enough for us to promote these (environmentally friendly) type of products," and "it's time we begin putting profits before earth." I was befuddled, not just because of the hard-line business talk, but because in reality, the profit margin for these products has been steadily trending upward. The outlook is quite bright.
A source affiliated with the media group, who asked not to be identified, affirmed my knowledge on this matter, saying that the eco-smart product marketplace is thriving and very profitable, but that there are people within the furniture industry with agendas and interests different from that of the sustainability movement.

The timing of this coincides conveniently with the current mortal storm of thought that is dismissing the theory of climate change. In fact, look at what some of the great emerging minds in the anti-sustainability world are saying here on this recent blog, with provocative notions such as "Earth Hour" shows "the environmental movement's distaste for modernity," in which a blogger seems to claim that the Earth Hour protest was an assault on the sanctity of the industrial world, electricity, and the economy. With astonishing sincerity and pathos, he essentially equates utility companies with freedom. The message seems to be "don't tread on my electric grid."

I challenge these misinformed contrarians to examine some common sense concepts about this "daunting" brave new green world. Sustainability is ultimately about upgrading the quality of peoples lives. It is about reducing inefficiency and is a methodology of logic and ingenuity that both gathers from and informs human intellectual and ethical progress -which includes economics. Despite occasional relapses, the human race tends to move toward this definition of progress.

At a recent symposium at the Academy of Sciences here in Philadelphia, giant corporations such as Dow Chemical and others discussed the new mode of sustainability in corporate thinking from the top down, in contrast to the more commonly viewed grass-roots perspective. Big players are beginning to see the green writing on the wall. Keeping their workers healthy saves money. Being less dependent on the petrol-chemical market and being more energy efficient saves money. To think otherwise is detrimental to capital investment and the survival of the free market, especially as energy rates soar and resources are depleted. Even Walmart, as recent as last week, adopted major measures toward sustainability.

This is not mere green-washing, this is the bottom line. Ironically, some of these companies have even been low key about their moves to become energy efficient and green, because they fear a backlash from the new anti-green mob that is rising like the ocean levels. And oddly enough, I find myself in the awkward position of cheering on some multi-nationals I protested against years ago who are now taking steps to change.

In the end, both grass-roots and corporate sides must converge and for all the right reasons to make environmental sustainability truly sustainable. But meanwhile, who's gonna tell a multi-billion dollar company like Dow Chemical or Walmart that they can't go green? And why fight them?

Some occasional pruning is needed for this movement, that is undeniable - just like with my rose bushes. That can only help. But it surely that doesn't mean it is bound to wither and die...

Funny how my mind wanders sometimes. And since this post has become as loaded with earthy metaphors as Chauncey Gardner, let us get back to where we started - helpful tips on caring for roses in your garden.  Here's some great advice from 5minute Videos. So enough of this gloom and doom, let your garden bloom, bloom, bloom! --D.A. DeMers.


(Update: all links to "green news" for the publication mentioned above have been recently restored. The publication is now under new ownership, and I have chosen to keep it anonymous since it is not the central focus of this post).

Image credits: Pink Rose Bush, Martha Washington, CC License 1.0 . Frank Gehry recycled cardboard chair, CC License 1.0. All others by D.A DeMers, and free to use under CC license 1.0.
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