Thursday, January 24, 2008

What does "Bright Green" mean?

At work we throw the phrase "Bright Green" around a lot. I've made another attempt to define what it might mean:

Bright green is a strategy for meeting our needs and securing a pleasant, modern lifestyle without reducing the opportunities of future generations and harming the foundation for civilization in the long run.
In that sense, the term ”bright green” means the same as ”sustainable”, but by choosing a different phrase we get to rethink the issue and define a vision that is more in line with the realities of today.

No one owns the definition of ”bright green”, but as we see it, the following are some of the characteristics:

Bright Green is basically about understanding ones actions and their consequences in a global and long-term perspective. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is in our own interest that the entire system which we depend upon remains healthy.
Bright Green thinking is circular; realizing that resources, activity and waste are connected in a cycle which is becoming tighter on a planet where a rising population of people are rapidly increasing their consumption – while natural resources are dwindling or depleted despite amazing progress in developing more efficient technologies.

Meeting the future needs of humans calls for radical new technologies, so Bright Green technology must be based on science and facts. Bright Green solutions do not depend on faith or luck – they are proven, well documented and robust technologies with an effect that is reliable and well understood.

Obviously, money is not the only value in life, but the spreading of bright green products and solutions should be driven by market forces. They have to be attractive and make economical sense. Bright green solutions may be supported by regulation - and indeed taxation and regulation are important ways of determining what is economical in society - but basically Bright Green solution should be chosen based on competitive merits and not because of guilt or good will. Bright green solutions are efficient as they seek to optimize the use of natural resources.

Bright Green solutions are thought through at a systemic level and they work in large and complex contexts. Bright Green thinking implies deliberately looking at the larger picture – understanding that whether a solution is in fact positive is determined in a complex interaction between many, interdependent factors. Bright Green is no about quick, local fixes.

Bright Green solutions can scale to mass markets. They are not hand crafted or targetted at small and special groups of users. Rather, they can be rolled out at an industrial scale and be useful to millions of people.

Bright Green solutions offer transparency and overview. They enable users to act appropriately and participate in optimizing their outcome. They invite users to act in a responsible way – to become co-creators rather than passive consumers.

Strictly speaking, the best environmentalist is a dead environmentalist – no longer wearing on nature’s resources. But Bright Green thinking is not about excusing our presence and minimizing our existence. Bright Green should be an attractive, hopeful and fun vision of the future. Nature is not grey and frugal. Nature is an explosion of colours, variety and opportunity, but this richness of the planet has co-evolved as an entire system. Our wealth can only be maintained in balance with the rest of the system – and evolution is littered with designs that did not respect that.

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