The Boston Pride 2008 theme "Sustaining our Community, Conserving Our World" presents queer activists with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate why environmental justice is important. I applaud the activists who voted for it on the Boston Pride web site.
Though it is a great theme, I worry it could be a reflection of the "grenwashing" of the gay community. We must remember that corporate sponsors of gay events and publications such as Ford, Bank of America, Chevy, Clorox, Pfizer, and Proctor and Gamble are not "green."
Being "green" has become more trendy and popular than we could have ever imagined, even after Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth I don't think anyone saw this coming. In the past few months the magazine shelves have been filled with "green issues." Not to be outdone The Advocate premiered its "green issue" this week. Aside from the color choice the content was far from green. Maybe a little racist (see below), but not "green."
The Advocate's corporate advertisers submitted a bevy of "greenwash." The first ad in the magazine is for a Hybrid Lexus. There is not a peep about corporate destruction of the environment in the Editor's letter. And the first article in the magazine about "green" issues is one that praises Ford motor company for having the largest "green roof" on a building and the company's 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign (I just threw up a little in my mouth because Shell Oil is one of HRC's major corporate funders).
The magazine continues by giving lots of tips, geared towards the wealthy, on how to go "green." Paint with organic paint. Change your light bulbs. Drive a hybrid SUV. Pay for carbon offsets. Even Rufus Wainwright chimes in telling Advocate readers to turn off their electricity for a day.
Then there are the "green warriors" who the Advocate admits were hard to find. Yes, these folks are on the front lines of fighting for environmental justice (a term I couldn't' find in the entire issue). There is a fashion designer, an architect, and an interior designer. Heroes!
Next up, an interview with General Motors praising their "concept" car. (The gays like totally forgot who killed the electric car.)
Finally, on page 48 of the "green issue" the Advocate has an advertisement for itself featuring a photo of a person of color's hand holding a white hand set in a forest. The tagline: "he wanted to show me some exotic places." So there you have it. Buy a hybrid SUV and have sex with an "exotic" brown person and your martini sipping Friends will be "green" with envy!
Now I do my fair share of little "green" things. I use my own cloth bags when I shop, I eat a plant based diet (yes that saves your health, saves money, animals, AND the environment - but you won't hear Al Gore admit that little inconvenient truth), I use energy saving light bulbs, I don't wear leather, and I've asked my employer to green their products in the staff kitchen. But I'm also realistic about the fact that even if we all do those little things the ocean's plastic garbage bin that is twice the size of Texas will not disappear, and the entire world's environment is doomed unless we get the oil companies and their buddies to stop.
As the gay community jumps on the green trend, it is up to queer activists to expose the scientific truth. We must join hands with our friends at organizations like ACE in Boston - an organization that empowers teens to fight for environmental justice issues such as better public transportation, and no biolabs. We must make our voices heard by first creating coalitions with activists on the front lines, and then by educating others at events like Boston Pride, where corporate Coal Industry investors like Bank of America will likely engage in well-funded "greenwashing" campaigns.
On May 10th (Youth Pride Day) QueerToday.com will launch a new social network and publish a green toolkit that you can use to inform yourself and others about environmental justice during this "green" Pride season.