Ecological consciousness has become so big, so fast in the past two years. We got a little sleepy after the 1960’s, 1970’s, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the crying Indian and those “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” Keep America Beautiful public-service announcements. There were years of worrying about other matters. But then came scientific reports, hideous tidal waves and hurricanes, nightmares of people holding onto melting ice shelves, Dennis Quaid wandering around New York in a snow parka with a dog sled in The Day After Tomorrow, Al Gore’s slideshow with the bald mountains. Now Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a sustainability presentation planned for April. Every hour, there’s another Web site, another television show. And on Thursday, March 15, Domino magazine became the latest to celebrate a “green issue,” at Industria Super Studio, with eco-friendly paper towels and mops and almonds and other props.
Model Shalom Harlow, who spent childhood summers on an off-the-grid bee farm, was there, enthusiastically holding a jar of eco-something. So, too, were model Lauren Bush and actor Ed Norton, a devoted eco-tourism activist in Africa, lingering around the shelves of a “green market” where everyone was excited about the dishwasher tablets and the other 124 products blessed with Domino’s “undeniable eco cred.” Mingling among the eco-celebrities were the eco-nymphs: slender, crane-like women in bamboo-fiber dresses, who ate only a cranberry or two plucked from the Prosecco cocktails. Unconsumed cranberries would be composted after the evening. This sustainable crowd is so Remembrance of Things Past. Why must we be forced to relive everything these days? A new poetry is shaping up, called “Where are you going, you little seed?”
Yet we must relive, because otherwise we’ll waste more, produce more carbon emissions, the glaciers will disappear, New York’s sea level will rise, and it’s going to be curtains for those living in basement apartments in Coney Island. Many say all this commotion over natural batting, shorter showers, shrouds instead of coffins, is but a drop in the global-disaster bucket.
Treehugger.com founder and chief executive Graham Hill—who couldn’t attend the Domino party because he and his girlfriend Olga got bit by a mosquito in the South and contracted dengue fever—telephoned a few days later from his bed in Soho. When asked how long it would take for all products to be friendly and O.K. and can we do it in time, Mr. Hill, his voice sounding weak, said: “To make something zero-impact is a very tough proposition. Most stuff these days is bad. We live in such a global world; materials have to travel a long, long distance.” Those distances are crossed with wasteful planes and trucks.
It would be better if we all lived in one room together, all six or seven billion of us on each other’s laps, no more cars, no more trains. We will tie flutes to the feet of pigeons like in Lost Horizon.
Mr. Hill, who generally has enormous energy, is one of the leaders in the so-called eco-green-sustainable movement, though some say this is not exactly a movement, as in, let’s say, the civil-rights sense. Global warming is more a big problem. And there are scores out to solve it, like John Bruce, a Brooklyn-based designer who announced at the Domino party that he is going be part of the “green team” on the EcoZone Project television specials, beginning on Earth Day, April 22, (and airing on Fox on May 22), that will turn celebrity homes inside-out, making them green. The show’s first few eco-celebrity homes will be in Los Angeles; for the actor Ron Livingston, they are using reclaimed wood from Gregory Peck’s house. Apparently, it was difficult for eco-celebrities to get past the rules in New York City co-ops.
Actor Adrien Grenier and his mother Karesse Grenier, a former Corcoran agent, have rebuilt an 1890’s house in the Bedford-Stuyvesant–Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn with recycled blue-jean insulation, a solar roof, reclaimed oak floors and so on. Speaking from his hybrid Prius while driving around L.A., where he’s filming the fourth season of Entourage, Mr. Grenier said that his eco-consciousness began when his mother gave him a copy of Chief Seattle’s speech to the white man about how can you buy this land that is always kind. He has gone through different phases of thinking about the carbon-emissions problem: “From compulsive obsession to apathy, but now I have balance,” he said. “It’s being less about myself saving the world, [more about] creating an environment that I would want to live in.”
The whole response to the carbon problem is about the community: a line of eco-somebodies and eco-nobodies passing buckets of
It is very heroic, 24 hours a day. Yet the green problem/movement has got to be the loneliest. The high-energy crowd is excitedly fighting for eternal life and hugging trees in their darkened rooms clacking on computers, madly videoconferencing. Who gets to even go to the park?
This is simply our country’s non-pastoral, non-outdoor life these days. Even if the world does not melt and flood and burn, we might never see it. Or if we have to go through it, we will be frozen and covered with white dust at our computers, our hands frozen over the keys.
Mr. Hill pointed out that there are Green Drinks, once a month, all over the world, in 180 cities, with places for ecologically concerned people to meet and, one imagines, get really drunk on Ecover dishwashing liquid to obliterate the thoughts of neo-carbon man and crude oil and hanging onto a melting ice shelf and whatnot.
The green movement turns everything into a theme. Beyond the heroic, beyond the pastoral longing, the intelligent necessity, the caring or not about future generations, there is a soothing, satisfying end to organizing about something, gathering one’s thoughts in a certain way, a curatorial desire to bring one’s life together, especially in a vast world of shopping and a billion thousand Internet searches. It gives a sense of wholeness.
If you want to eat a potato raised by a cooperative family (who knew there were so many, except for the ones in the Union Square Greenmarket?), then sit on a reclaimed sawdust floor in a bamboo pinafore dress under an eco-chandelier with Energy Wiser 7-Watt “CF Deco” bulbs, rub a leaf over your teeth and go live in a cave, why don’t you?
There is already so much to do in life, and now there’s even more to do: get a hybrid car; get a suit like Al Gore. We will all collapse from exhaustion from redoing the floor with old bottle tiles, sewing our own bamboo dresses before the carbon ever kills us. Maybe it’s easier just not to buy anything, which actually is a very eco/green thing to do.
Most everybody is in this for future generations. Mr. Gore’s voice always gets low and soft when he’s about to talk about death or 2050. For people with children, it makes all the sense. But do people without children care about future generations? And even so, did some farmer in 1886 care about me?
And what will the future look like? Same old tables and chairs made out of alder wood and Domino girls alone with a plant in their bright white rooms, Fatherless Manhattan.