OK so we’ve had the Original greens – hard-core activists and connected liberators of all of us from the yoke of consumption destruction and overbearing human right of entitlement – dibs on everything that isn’t our rarified species.
Then we had the Blue Greens – sustainability experts and big brains born out of the smart set modelling living ecosystems and developing everything from clean tech, by-product life-cycling and social networks to those reframing CSR and doing the right thing as imperatives for a better total life – not just tree hugging. Suddenly we’re viewing the world holistically not only on environmental but economic social and cultural measures of wellbeing.
Then came the Greenback Greens – the money monster advocates of sustainability practice protecting future growth and profitability, stimulating qualitative growth and, at its very, very least, driving economies and efficiencies into the business through rigorous and inspired supply chain optimization – and who, if you tick those boxes and play nice, won’t short the crap out of your business.
But the green thing has warn thin, even in the early adopters – and there is certainly no green movement on a mass scale unless of course you include the twitter feeds and face books of Kermit, Yoda and Mike Wazowski
85% still aren’t listening to green living or any other colour of conscience driven consumption for that matter – they’re all working on a different tip on the other side of the chasm and we’re just not crossing yet.
So I’d like to inaugurate a new back to the future green strategy for tomorrow. One rooted in a primal powerful truth – that of the human gene pool imperative of climbing the procreation ladder and securing gene survival and immortality. And it is based on the purest and most human green behaviour of all.
Lets hear it for the power of envy to drive everyday people to drastically change their behavior sometimes inexplicably mid flow, and do audacious courageous and sometimes socially down right insane things in the name of ‘me-too’. Envy actually changes the way people are wired and not always for the worse. Recent studies have demonstrated that inciting envy actually changes cognitive function; boosting mental persistence and memory.
Bertrand Russell believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and must be endured to achieve a more just social system.
So perhaps, given that psychologists believe that there are two forms of envy – one toxic and one benign – could we not seize on the power of the benign form to shift the hearts and minds of that 85%?
Desire is the only true emotion that seems to be still missing in most of the communications and lifestyle framing around a more sustainable lifestyle for us all
But this is a clear brief: stimulate potent desire around something – products, actions and behaviours – that is a component part of a more sustainable world.
Find the dimensions in the story telling that make it ‘ping’ the bell in the mind of the 85% – set yourself to the real task of turning the gene pool purchaser green with envy
No more furtive apologetic or overly protective do the right thing mantras and less of this and much less of that.
Just feisty shiny confident “why woudn’t you? coudn’t you?” stuff – all built to trigger the green eyed but in this instance wholly constructive monster.
Using the same strategies that were applied to transform the post war American Industrial machine from destruction to consumption through the championing of the Consumer Citizen leads us to weald a very simple blunt tool – show people living a desirous life all around you – and in the end the gene pool rule applies.
Transforming what the mass find desirous in others around them when those things are cool, smart examples of lighter living makes the old toxic nature of keeping up with the Jones suddenly alright by me.
And if we get a decent number of people to go ‘ohhh yes please I like it’ – and use every tool in the box – feature the desirous life as a back drop – in soaps, films, magazines, and adverts: bingo. Yes, that’s the creak of populist desire you can hear.
In this way we start to re-imagine a new prosperity and sense of aspiration – a really attractive, sexy one underwritten by invisible sustainable truths to stop the wheels falling off of it – one built to endure.
But fulminating on the power of envy in trite terms denies its more academically and philosophically viewed immutable human truth.
Schoek sets out the power of envy as “a drive which lies at the core of man’s life as a social being…[an] urge to compare oneself invidiously with others.” And in turn “We need envy for our existence, though no society that hopes to endure can afford to raise it to a value principle or to an institution”.
Envy’s potency is the true and only social strategy – its power unmatched, if it can be harnessed the right way.
So perhaps knowing that when it comes to the human condition, Envy lies at the heart of why we consume life the way we do; and knowing that it is a standing condition of the human psyche; and accepting that it is one of the most powerful drivers of behaviour, perhaps there is some merit in boldly using the good version of envy; the envy of a smarter lighter lifestyle lived by others as a better and more honest way of transforming the bad social norms of consumption for better.
Just a thought.