Three Media Views of Green Living

By Duane Elgin

Posted: 06/27/11 05:41 PM ET Huffington Post:

It is ironic and tragic that green lifestyles that can take us into an opportunity-filled future are generally portrayed by the mass media as a regressive way of life that turns away from progress. Here are three portrayals of green lifestyles and simplicity common in today’s popular media:

1. Crude or Regressive Simplicity. The mainstream media often shows simplicity as a path of regress instead of progress. Simplicity is frequently presented as anti-technology and anti-innovation, a backward-looking way of life that seeks a romantic return to a bygone era. Media stories often depict a utopian, back-to-nature movement with families leaving the stresses of an urban life in favor of living in the woods, or on a farm, or in a recreational vehicle, or on a boat. Often it is a stereotypical view of a crudely simple lifestyle–a throwback to an earlier time and more primitive condition–with no indoor toilet, no phone, no computer, no television, and no car. No thanks! Seen in this way, simplicity is a cartoon lifestyle that seems naive, disconnected, and irrelevant–an approach to living that can be easily dismissed as impractical and unworkable. Regarding simplicity as regressive and primitive makes it easier to embrace a “business as usual” approach to living in the world.

2. Cosmetic or Superficial Simplicity. In recent years, a different view of simplicity has begun to appear in the media: a cosmetic simplicity that attempts to cover over deep defects in our modern ways of living by giving the appearance of meaningful change. Shallow simplicity assumes that green technologies–such as fuel-efficient cars, fluorescent light bulbs, and recycling–will fix our problems, give us breathing room, and allow us to continue pretty much as we have in the past without requiring that we make fundamental changes in how we live and work. Cosmetic simplicity puts green lipstick on our unsustainable lives to give them the outward appearance of health and happiness. A superficial simplicity gives a false sense of security by implying that small measures will solve great difficulties. A cosmetic simplicity perpetuates the status quo by assuming that, with use of green technologies we can moderate our impact and continue along our current path of unsustainable growth.

3. Deep or Conscious Simplicity. Occasionally presented in the mass media and poorly understood by the general public is a conscious simplicity that represents a deep, graceful, and sophisticated transformation in our ways of living–the work that we do, the transportation that we use, the homes and neighborhoods in which we live, the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, and much more. A sophisticated simplicity seeks to heal our relationship with the earth, with one another, and with the sacred universe. Conscious simplicity is not simple. This life way is growing and flowering with a diverse garden of expressions. Deep simplicity fits aesthetically and sustainably into the real world of the twenty-first century.

Few people would voluntarily go through the difficulty of fundamentally restructuring their manner of living and working if they thought they could tighten their belts and wait for things to return to “normal.” A majority of people will shift their ways of living only when it is unmistakably clear that we must make dramatic and lasting changes. However, science has shown that the world has already reached a point of no return and crossed a threshold where the thriving prosperity of deep simplicity should be presented as the “new normal.” Tragically, the mass media machine continues to grind out a world of adolescent fantasy to satisfy the shallow interests of advertisers and keep mainstream America in the cultural hypnosis of denial.