Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess
Thursday 05 October 2006
To the city of dreaming spires to attend the 40th anniversary of the iconic environmental magazine Resurgence. It is still run by its founder, the inspirational peace campaigner Satish Kumar, who in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, walked 8,000 miles from India to America without any money to deliver packets of "peace tea" to the leaders of the four nuclear powers.
The peace tea was inspired by meeting women in a tea factory who gave him four tea bags, one to be delivered to each of the leaders with the message: "When you think you need to press the button, stop for a minute and have a fresh cup of tea."
The speakers at the Resurgence party included Annie Lennox, Deepak Chopra, Jonathon Porritt, George Monbiot, Anita Roddick and Caroline Lucas, and they gave us plenty to think about.
There are differences of opinion in the environmental movement as there are in any group of people, no matter how compassionate or pure their motivation. For example, Anita Roddick has been criticised for selling the Body Shop to L'Oréal, so it was good to hear her explain that they are committed to keeping her core ideals. It's a huge benefit to have a woman with her drive and vision working to change the world's largest beauty company from the inside. There was further controversy - between my eco-coach, Donnachadh, and me - when George Monbiot pointed out that the green movement was missing a trick by being too nice. This allows companies like BP to sneak into our consciousness and cunningly reinvent themselves as eco-friendly with its chairman, John Browne, being painted as the poster boy of the environmental movement.
Donnachadh insists that we should praise companies who are embracing green thinking (BP is investing a measly 2.6 per cent of its profits into renewables, but it's a start he argues), and to be for things rather than against them. I believe this is a more positive approach in life - dogs (and boyfriends) are trained more effectively through praise than punishment - but seeing John Browne reinvented as a green guru makes me seethe. If BP can pay him £5.6m a year, they should be able to make rudimentary safety checks on pipelines and thus prevent oil spills. This March saw the second-largest spill in Alaskan history, which has had devastating effects on Alaska's environment.
But the problems are not all "out there" in the wicked world of business. My top moment came when Donnachadh stood up during a hand-wringing speech about averting global meltdown and suggested that we could make a start by turning some of the lights off (half the blinds were drawn), which was duly done. All of us wrestle with guilty carbon secrets - but unless we ourselves are "the change we want to see" we can't expect the world to change either.
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