Reimagining the Why

NPR reports on a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which suggests that CO2 levels in the atmosphere won’t decrease for at least 1,000 years even if we stop producing it tomorrow.  Unlike methane and other GHGs, carbon dioxide just doesn’t like to die.  At minimum we’re stuck with the global warming we’ve already caused.

In other words, there’s no turning back.  No more hope of returning to some distorted past/future mashup of a preindustrial Jeffersonian fantasy land where hemp-clad vegans frolic among wind turbines on green pastures.  We’re stuck with now.

And I’m thrilled.

I believe a difficult but urgent transition needs to take place in the way we imagine the ‘why’ behind living sustainably, efficiently, differently.  My problem with conventional global warming rhetoric is rooted in the same discomfort I experience in the face of religious fundamentalism, neoconservative extremism, and economic doomsday diatribes.  There is no discernible ‘why’–only a ‘why not’ predicated on a distant and abstract threat of utter destruction balanced by an unhealthy obsession with an imaginary idyllic past that is just fundamentally unrealistic.   In any iteration, ‘why not’ always stinks of delusions and ulterior motives.

Ulrich Beck believes this type of  distorted retrospection has nothing to do with genuine concern for the environment, but is a gut reaction to power structures that have stripped people of control of their own lives.  He argues that the ”environment’ is invented in our collective imagination as a way to express how frustrated we are with the fact that we’re peons to the (post) industrial age; a sort of subliminally codified language of futile resistance.

I’m no psycho-social conspiracy theorist.  But I’ll say this: ‘the environment’ is an abstract concept that we imagine it to be.  Too often, we conceive of it as external, foreign to ourselves and our current surroundings, isolated in both time and space — some wild field or forest outside of our daily life.  The ‘why’ attached to protecting and preserving this fantasy becomes an unrealistic obsession for some, and a fleeting daydream for the rest of us.

The greatest challenge in re-branding green is orientation.  Helping people locate themselves within a tangible environment, providing concrete goals with ownable justifications behind them.  Reimagining the ‘why’ is a matter of ditching the elysian past and embracing now.  There is only here to be.  There is only forward to go.

© Ryan Cunningham 2009

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2 Responses to “Reimagining the Why”


  1. 1 my profile May 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Wow, this piece of writing is pleasant, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things, therefore I
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  1. 1 That Vision Thing « preparsed Trackback on February 9, 2009 at 11:54 pm

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thoughts at the collision of business, brand and creativity

I'm Ryan Cunningham. I help companies and culture play nice with each other. At CREATURE we call this Brand Strategy, a term that carries a nice halo of reliability and structure. Here, I'm just another guy who thinks about the world and writes it down from time to time.

The result is a pile of knowledge to be used in, and for, the future. Feel free to sift through the heap for useful connections.

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