FRAMESHOP:FRAMESHOP: "GREEN CIVICS"

Last week I had a chance to visit a quite remarkable place in the Hudson Valley, a retreat center called The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies which, among other things, is just about to break ground on the most remarkable...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 08/12/2008

Last week I had a chance to visit a quite remarkable place in the Hudson Valley, a retreat center called The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies which, among other things, is just about to break ground on the most remarkable futuristic green project I have ever come across.   

Now, I need to admit right off the bat that holistic living is not my bag.  I studied comparative religion in college and I am a Cultural Anthropologist by training--so I am no stranger to the spiritual, ecological concepts that underpin the contemporary holistic movement. The roots of this movement extend back to the 1970s, its focus is on learning skills to improve personal well-being, relationships, and the world.  I get it, but it has just never been my cup of tea.   But my goodness, the 'green' project they are planning at the Omega Institute is completely fascinating and has significant implications for contemporary politics.   

Here's what all this means:  I am going to write a few posts that depart from my normal routine of framing contemporary issues.  In these posts I am going to explain why the new project at Omega is so fascinating and I as I do this, I am going to examine the intersection of framing, environmentalism, and politics. 

I should also say right up front that I was a guest at Omega on the day in question, which means they gave me a lovely dinner, a tour of their site, and a stack of stuff about the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, on which they are about to break ground.   I will also add, but way of disclaimer, that they are raising money to pay for the project ($2.3 million), and it was no secret that I was invited as part of an effort to get out the word in the context of this larger effort to bring in the dough.   All I can say on that front is: donate if you feel moved to (follow the first link)--but do not think there is any kind of quid pro quo in my writing. 

I am not selling the Omega Sustainable Living Center so much as I am thinking through it--and in so doing, trying to understand the vexing dilemma that we face in this country vis-à-vis the framing of environmentalism.  The problem is that environmentalism when seen through the lens of the Green movement seems successful, but it isn't.  And it is hard to articulate exactly what that means, let alone how to chagne it.

After thinking for almost a week about it, this is the question I came up with by way of departure:

Question:  Why has the green movement has succeeded so wildly in the past few years in the U.S. while the problems of energy and conservation continue to get exponentially worse?

I can even simplify that question to look like this:

Question: Why does the environment continue to degrade even as the green movement advances by leaps and bounds?

Yep--that's the right ballpark, so it will be the departure point for the next few posts.  Even better, I am going to provide an answer:

Answer:  Because environmentalism can only truly succeed if is fully realized as civics.

Adding to that, we need one more short answer to the obvious question (e.g., How can environmentalism be realized as civics?):

Answer:  By reframing environmentalism so as to bring the green movement squarely into politics.

OK..now that the preceding little exchange with myself is over--the big picture concepts are out there (framing, environmentalism, green, civics, politics), I will get started in the next post.

In the meantime, write down this phrase: "Green Civics"

'Green Civics' is a concept I plan to develop in these posts, starting with a discussion next of the Omega Instiute and what they are trying to accomplish with a building that employs snails, algae and goldfish to recycle 100% of their waste water.

© 2008 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop

© Jeffrey Feldman 2008, Frameshop

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