Skip navigation
Currently Being Moderated
Today we feature a guest blog by David de Rothschild, adventurer, environmentalist and the founder of MYOO, a meaningful marketing agency, online zine and adventure group, specialising in sustainability consultancy, material science and product design.

Alongside Dr Adrian Glover, Dr Katie Steele and Professor Tim Burke, David will be one of the prestigious speakers at the ‘Losing our Principles?’ special event at Science Uncovered on Friday 23 September 2011.

This debate, chaired by the journalist and former Guardian Science Editor Tim Radford, will focus on the risks and impacts of our ever-increasing reliance on natural resources and what approaches will be necessary to tackle them.

Losing our Prinicples is a free event but tickets must be booked online in advance.


'Live SMART, not GREEN'


To be totally honest, when I think of GREEN, the first image that comes to mind is a skinny-looking Alien with big black buggy eyes and frog legs. Now I know this sounds funny; you were probably expecting me to say the first image that comes to mind is a hybrid car, or a wind turbine, a reusable bag, zero emissions (whatever they look like) carbon offsets, or any other possible type of product, or innovation bearing the lofty and dizzying badge of being GREEN.

After all, these are the things we are told to think of as being green. Because somewhere along the way, green became more than just a colour. It became a SUPER colour. Superseding black, pink, yellow— and for that matter any other straightforward colour— “GREEN” became synonymous with a mighty big (albeit vague) promise. An implication that whatever the effect of the purchase or service, it would somehow contribute to a more sustainable planet and deliver us back to a harmonious balance with the natural world that probably hasn’t been felt since Adam, Eve and that little apple incident.

Cheered on by eco-celebrities, politicians, and entrepreneurs, society has embraced this “greenness”. The market is awash with feel-good, organic Jeans, organic moisturizers, and low-carbon diets. Most of this is moderately beneficial—or at least relatively harmless. But as other colours, like blue are touted as GREEN’s successor, and phrases like ‘Green fatigue’ and ‘Green-wash’ appear more frequently in conversation, it begs the question, is colour-coding our planet’s issues wise? Or are we looking at this all through the wrong lens?

As an experiment, I urge you to get in touch with your inner child and let your imagination run free. I want you to zoom out and take the “orbital view” (as our MYOOZE J. Carl Ganter puts it) of the planet. To do that, I want you to imagine that you’re the alien visiting from planet SMART. While taking your new biometrically grown UFO for a neighbourhood spin, you find yourself stumbling across planet Earth. Intrigued by your discovery, you decide to take a closer look. Beneath, you glimpse a crosshatch of airplanes, a web of factories, and a humming network of highways.

The questions is, would you consider this planet you’ve stumbled upon an intelligently advanced super species that had designed a SMART planet like your own, overflowing with SMART ideas, systems, products and services that, like an olden-day traveller, you could triumphantly take back to improve your own planet? Or would you speed off, relieved that you didn’t have to live amongst all the hot, polluted, dumb mess?

earth-from-space-001889_IA-copyright-natural-history-museum.jpgIf green is the colour to be, then thinking “Green” might mean forgetting everything we’ve been taught and seeing our planet with a visitor’s eyes. What if we didn’t speak the eco-language? If we could no longer rely on jargon like “Energy Security”, “CO2”, melting icecaps”, “compact fluros” or the self assigned GREEN saviour, “Carbon Offsets” to describe the world we saw? Then perhaps the real innovations would become clear.

For all the enthusiasm, noise and momentum, the scientific, political, industrial, and consumer consensus, we have ended up with a lukewarm campaign that at best, feels like it could make it to the end of the year but maybe even only to the end of the week. A campaign that for the most part, still feels like a chore, and for all the postulating and passionate rhetoric, was always most clearly articulated by Kermit the frog when he noted, “It isn’t easy being green”.

The latest science has now given our planet, at most, one decade left to stop the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions and begin the transition to a sustainable global environmental economy. The outcome of this monumental task is ultimately going to depend on our ability to act now, and quickly. So the question has to be: WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?  What’s stopping us from acting on the information we already have?

Without trying to oversimplify the situation at hand, it’s fair to say that GREEN has officially become a ‘thing’. What was initially coined to prevent a global meltdown has become a means to trivialize the issue, i.e. “I have walked my dog, I have paid my taxes, and oh, I’ve done that GREEN thing’. It also comes with a myriad of confusing, abstract terminology and a flotilla of products that create just enough distraction from the truly important global issues to ultimately delay humanity from undertaking the enormous challenges that lie ahead.

Tucked behind all the disaster headlines is a much larger list of solutions to current inefficiencies that already exist within our current systems!  So as we continue to strive for better terminology, let’s also engage in a little smart thinking.

As with Climate Change, change can be threatening. But it can also be a perpetual source of opportunity.  Having a coherent language for the “GREEN” movement seems like a good thing, but it also hides the fact that no one movement has the answer.  By labelling some things GREEN and some things not, we lose sight of the fact that we’ve never been separate from each other or from nature at all.

We can no longer afford to mine the past or mortgage the future. To get us back on to a sustainable path, we need to start living within our means. That also means living within the limits of our natural capital. Waste is no longer acceptable—industrialized society is gobbling up our natural capital at an increasing rate, presenting an urgent threat to humanity. Let’s start taking responsibility for our impacts, let go of linear thinking and embrace the cyclical where our outputs simply become the inputs of another process.  Let’s continue to move to a de-materialized economy, based primarily on information and services, rather than products. The most resilient, adaptable, creative, and sustainable systems are decentralized and networked. Let’s work together to create economic systems that go beyond the 'winner takes all' model and allow for humans everywhere to have a chance to aspire to more than just survival.

If there’s just one thing I hope you saw during your brief trip to space looking down on our earth, its that on a basic level, there’s no getting away from “being GREEN,” since there is nowhere really “away” where we can throw our problems. Everything is interconnected and interdependent—businesses, economies, societies and ecologies, me and you. There are also no easy answers, no final destination, and no one-size-fits-all solutions.  But the interconnectivity that currently threatens the planet is also our most promising hope for revitalizing it.  And getting smarter now about the way we think, problem-solve and work together is the first and most vital step of that journey.

— David de Rothschild


You can follow David and MYOO on Twitter as @DRexplore and @MYOO.



About Science Uncovered 2011:


Science Uncovered is a free event on Friday 23 September 2011 at the Natural History Museum.  All events and tours at Science Uncovered will be free but, due to time and space constraints, some will require you to book free tickets in advance.

To find out more visit Science Uncovered on the Museum’s website.


The Natural History Museum at Tring, Hertfordshire, will also be holding its own Science Uncovered event. Find out more about Science Uncovered in Tring.


Online community


To get involved before the night, visit our Science Uncovered online community where you can get previews of what’s happening and join in with discussions and debates.

Comments (8)