Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Greenbacks and Green Stunts

Elizabeth Kolbert criticizes eco-stunt(er)s in her article "Green Like Me" online in The New Yorker  (August 31/09).

Eco -stunts, or as Kolbert calls them "nouveau-Thoreauvian conceit[s]," don't seem to have a definable purpose - from Colin Beavan's No Impact Man to
spending a month eating only food grown in an urban back yard, as in “Farm City” (2009), or a year eating food produced on a gentleman’s farm, as in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (2007). It might involve driving across the country on used cooking oil, as in “Greasy Rider” (2008), or giving up fossil fuels for goats, as in “Farewell, My Subaru” (2008).
Kolbert further likens the eco-stunters to Thoreau and his Walden Pond experimant.  "The nouveau Thoreauvians have picked up from “Walden” its dramaturgy of austerity" (for this sentence alone, Kolbert is welcome at the soiree!). Unlike Thoreau's results, though, those of neo-stunters make some serious money.

The title of Kolbert's article hints at Black Like Me, the 1961 book about John Howard Griffin's experiences of travelling through segregated areas of America as a black man. Although the experiment and subsequent book had its detractors, generally Griffin's results were positive in raising awareness.

Kolbert beleives it is questionable whether the new eco- stunts and the publicity they generate raise awareness or raise only revenue. And, ultimately, they are misguided forays into environmentalsim that often end up leaving more of a footprint in an unexpected area than is reduced in the intended one.

Elizabeth Kolbert is on staff at The New Yorker. Her most recent book is Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006).
I would like to invite Elizabeth Kolbert to my soiree.

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