Tracy Jones is a FOAM EU Organic Leadership graduate, ex-smallholder, and self described farming & countryside anorak! She’s a UK Board member for the CSA Network, a Farm Committee member of Vana Trust Organic Farm. and is currently writing her MSc organic farming thesis.
In a recent business meeting we found ourselves discussing ‘Light’ greens and ‘Dark’ greens. I’m not one for labels or stereotyping people into categories, however I do see the merit in knowing your customer, if you’re in business, or knowing your target audience if you’re recruiting for membership of an organisation.
After the meeting I realised that although I’d bandied these terms around for quite a while I didn’t actually know the exact origin of them. A quick online search led me to Alex Steffen who described contemporary environmentalists as being split into three distinct groups ‘dark’, ‘light’ & ‘bright’ greens. He characterised light green environmentalists as those who seek to change at an individual level. Dark greens “tend to emphasize the need to pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialisation itself) & emphasize local solutions, short supply chains & direct connection to the land.”
I feel the distinction between ‘Bright’ greens and ‘Light’ greens is now a little fuzzy especially in these technology driven times. Steffan talks about ‘Bright’ green environmentalists putting their faith in innovation, design, urban revitalisation & entrepreneurial zeal.
On a personal level I feel I have shifted from ‘Light’ green to ‘Dark’ green & back again, with a measure of ‘Bright’ green thrown into the mix. I wonder if this type of shift is common? I grew up farming with my Great Uncle, began my career in nature conservation, but all the while living a fairly conventional lifestyle. We then upped sticks to Ireland and lived for eight years on our 4 acre smallholding. We kept rare breed livestock and grew food in our large polytunnel and I even home-schooled my 4 children for a year. However, family commitments brought us back to the UK and we are again without our own land.
So in the great scheme of things do these labels really matter? Maybe to be all-encompassing it is important for environmental organisations (including sustainable farming) to understand, as far as possible, people’s motives for wanting to participate or not participate. But I feel it is vital not to forget that there is a complex mix of people interested in environmental issues. Even more vital to remember is that we can’t all be ‘Dark’ greens and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about that fact. Life is complicated with many twists and turns and many people do the best they can to mitigate their impact on the environment.
Moving forward into the future I feel sure we will see more and more grassroots projects taking back control of their local food systems and local environment. These projects will most likely be championed by people from a variety of backgrounds but all with one thing in common, the fact that they ‘care’.