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Bright green environmentalism

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Title: Bright green environmentalism  
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Subject: Green politics, Environmental movement, Ecomodernism, Viridian design movement, Derrick Jensen
Collection: Ecomodernism, Environmentalism, Green Politics
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bright green environmentalism

Part of a series on
Green politics
Sunflower symbol

Bright green environmentalism is an ideology based on the belief that the convergence of technological change and social innovation provides the most successful path to sustainable development.


  • Origin and evolution of bright green thinking 1
  • Dark greens, light greens and bright greens 2
  • International perspective 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Origin and evolution of bright green thinking

The term "bright green", first coined in 2003 by writer Alex Steffen, refers to the fast-growing new wing of environmentalism, distinct from traditional forms.[1] Bright green environmentalism aims to provide prosperity in an ecologically sustainable way through the use of new technologies and improved design.[2]

Proponents promote and advocate for green energy, electric automobiles, efficient manufacturing systems, bio and nanotechnologies, ubiquitous computing, dense urban settlements, closed loop materials cycles and sustainable product designs. "One-planet living" is a commonly used phrase.[3][4] Their principal focus is on the idea that through a combination of well-built communities, new technologies and sustainable living practices, quality of life can actually be improved even while ecological footprints shrink.

"Around the middle of the century we’ll see global population peak at something like 9 billion people, all of whom will want to live with a reasonable amount of prosperity, and many of whom will want, at the very least, a European lifestyle. They will see escaping poverty as their nonnegotiable right, but to deliver that prosperity at our current levels of efficiency and resource use would destroy the planet many times over. We need to invent a new model of prosperity, one that lets billions have the comfort, security, and opportunities they want at the level of impact the planet can afford. We can’t do that without embracing technology and better design."[5]

The term "bright green" has been used with increased frequency due to the promulgation of these ideas through the Internet and recent coverage in the traditional media.[6][7][8]

Dark greens, light greens and bright greens

Alex Steffen describes contemporary environmentalists as being split into three groups, "dark", "light", and "bright" greens.[9]

"Light greens" see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. They fall in on the transformational activist end of the spectrum, but light greens do not emphasize environmentalism as a distinct political ideology, or even seek fundamental political reform. Instead they often focus on environmentalism as a lifestyle choice.[9] The motto "Green is the new black" sums up this way of thinking, for many.[10] This is different from the term "lite green", which some environmentalists use to describe products or practices they believe are greenwashing.

In contrast, "dark greens" believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized civilization, and seek radical political change. Dark greens believe that currently and historically dominant political ideologies (sometimes referred to as industrialism) inevitably lead to consumerism, overconsumption, waste, alienation from nature and resource depletion. Dark greens claim this is caused by the emphasis on economic growth that exists within all existing ideologies, a tendency referred to as "growth mania". The dark green brand of environmentalism is associated with ideas of ecocentrism, deep ecology, degrowth, anti-consumerism, post-materialism, holism, the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock, as well as support for a reduction in human numbers and/or a relinquishment of technology to reduce humanity's impact on the biosphere.

More recently, "bright greens"' emerged as a group of environmentalists who believe that radical changes are needed in the economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable, but that better designs, new technologies and more widely distributed social innovations are the means to make those changes - and that society can neither shop nor protest its way to [12]

International perspective

While bright green environmentalism is an intellectual current among North American environmentalists (with a number of businesses, blogs, NGOs and even governments now explicitly calling themselves "bright green" - for instance, the City of Vancouver's strategic planning document is called "Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future"[13]), it is in Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, that the idea of bright green environmentalism has become most widespread and most widely discussed. For instance, the official technology showcase and business expo for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen is called Bright Green in reference to this idea,[14] while the Danish youth climate activism movement is called Bright Green Youth.

See also


  1. ^ Steffen, Alex (August 6, 2004). "Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Reports from the Team". World Changing. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  2. ^ Green schools show New Haven students the light – The Yale Herald
  3. ^ Bright Green Living wiki mission statement (Note: Wiki is inactive.)
  4. ^ "On Earth Day", Alex Steffen – Worldchanging website
  5. ^
  6. ^ Schechner, Sam (March 21, 2008). "Will 'Bright Green' Bring Discovery The Long Green?". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on July 11, 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Weise, Elizabeth (2008-04-23). "Ed Begley acts on his eco-beliefs".  
  8. ^ A Brighter Shade of Green—Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century; Ross Robertson; December 2007; EnlightenNext Magazine; retrieved .
  9. ^ a b Steffen, Alex (27 Feb 2009). "Bright Green, Light Green, Dark Green, Gray: The New Environmental Spectrum". Worldchanging. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Eco-friendly: Why green is the new black - International Herald Tribune
  11. ^ "Don't Just Be the Change, Mass-Produce It". World Changing. September 12, 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  12. ^ Robertson, Ross (October–December 2007). "A Brighter Shade of Green: Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century". Ecology, Politics, and Consciousness. BigThink (Originally "What Is Enlightenment?/EnlightenNext Magazine". Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Vancouver Makes a Bright Green Future its Official Goal". Worldchanging. October 9, 2009. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  14. ^ "Technologies for Sustainable Growth - Bright Green - DI". 2009-04-28. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 

External links

  • The Next Green Revolution – Wired magazine
  • A Brighter Shade of Green: Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century – WIE magazine
  • "Go Bright Green" – article in the Guardian
  • Steffen's own explanation of the difference between bright, light and dark greens
  • The Viridian Design Movement
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