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Cary Brunswick

February 6, 2010

'Greening' of America could be greater

Who would have thought, 40 years ago, that being ``green' would come to this? For ``this,'' of course, you can substitute the fact that just about everybody and everything wants to be seen as caring about the environment.

Not that it's a bad thing. It's just that Charles Reich should have patented the title of his ``The Greening of America'' book back in 1970 when it began its cycle of numerous printings. But if there's too much green, does the word or the color lose its meaning?

If someone today were to see the book on a library or bookstore shelf for the first time, he or she obviously would think it was a book about the spread of environmental awareness. And the non-violent ``revolution coming'' Reich refers to in a quote on the cover of my edition no doubt would be thought to refer to environmental activism.

But no, as many of you may know, Reich's book overtly had little to do with the dawn of environmentalism, which, contemporaneously, was launched with the first Earth Day in 1970.

Reich, at the time a 40-something law professor at Yale, had latched onto the 1960s counterculture and youth rebellion as offering a chance for society to advance itself to a higher level of consciousness. He saw it as one that ``seeks a new knowledge of what it means to be human, in order that the machine, having been built, may now be turned to human ends; in order that man once more can become a creative force, renewing and creating his own life and thus giving life back to his society.'' And the title of the book emerged in his last sentence: ``For one almost convinced that it was necessary to accept ugliness and evil, that it was necessary to be a miser of dreams, it is an invitation to cry or laugh. For one who thought the world was irretrievably encased in metal and plastic and sterile stone, it seems a veritable greening of America.'' Though not to the extent that Reich had in mind, there has been a ``greening'' of America over the past four decades, one focused more narrowly on the Earth, the environment, conservation and energy and other renewable resources.

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Cary Brunswick

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