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Green Guilt - Printable Version
Green Guilt - Printable Version

+- ConCen (
+-- Forum: Main (
+--- Forum: Religion, New Age & The Occult (
+--- Thread: Green Guilt (/thread-31013.html)

Green Guilt - FastTadpole - 01-13-2010

Thought I'd post it in the religion section since it highlights the religious connotation of sin as Green Guilt an uses psychology usually associated with religious movements as a driving force to advance the agenda.

Quote:Green Guilt
By Stephen T. Asma
January 10, 2010

Recently while I was brushing my teeth, my 6-year-old son scolded me for running the water too long. He severely reprimanded me, and at the end of his censure asked me, with real outrage, "Don't you love the earth?" And lately he has taken up the energy cause, scampering virtuously around the house turning off lights, even while I'm using them. He seems as stressed and anxious about the sins of environmentalism as I was about masturbation in the days of my Roman Catholic childhood.

Not too long ago, at a party, a friend confessed in a group conversation that he didn't really recycle. It was as if his casual comment had sucked the air out of the room—I think the CD player even skipped. He suddenly became a pariah. A heretic had been detected among the orthodox flock. During the indignant tongue-lashing that followed, people's faces twisted with moral outrage.

Many people who feel passionate about saving the planet justify their intense feelings by pointing to the seriousness of the problem and the high stakes involved. No doubt they are right about the seriousness. There are indeed environmental challenges, and steps must be taken to ameliorate them. But there is another way to understand the unique passion surrounding our need to go green.

Friedrich Nietzsche was the first to notice that religious emotions, like guilt and indignation, are still with us, even if we're not religious. He claimed that we were living in a post-Christian world—the church no longer dominates political and economic life—but we, as a culture, are still dominated by Judeo-Christian values. And those values are not obvious—they are not the Ten Commandments or any particular doctrine, but a general moral outlook.

You can see our veiled value system better if you contrast it with the one that preceded Christianity. For the pagans, honor and pride were valued, but for the Christians it is meekness and humility; for the pagans it was public shame, for Christians, private guilt; for pagans there was a celebration of hierarchy, with superior and inferior people, but for Christians there is egalitarianism; and for pagans there was more emphasis on justice, while for Christians there is emphasis on mercy (turning the other cheek). Underneath all these values, according to Nietzsche, is a kind of psychology—one dominated by resentment and guilt.

Every culture feels the call of conscience—the voice of internal self-criticism. But Western Christian culture, according to Nietzsche and then Freud, has conscience on steroids, so to speak. Our sense of guilt is comparatively extreme, and, with our culture of original sin and fallen status, we feel guilty about our very existence. In the belly of Western culture is the feeling that we're not worthy. Why is this feeling there?

All this internalized self-loathing is the cost we pay for being civilized. In a very well-organized society that protects the interests of many, we have to refrain daily from our natural instincts. We have to repress our own selfish, aggressive urges all the time, and we are so accustomed to it as adults that we don't always notice it. But if I was in the habit of acting on my impulses, I would regularly kill people in front of me at coffee shops who order elaborate whipped-cream mocha concoctions. In fact, I wouldn't bother to line up in a queue, but would just storm the counter (as I regularly witnessed people doing when I lived in China) and muscle people out of my way. But there is a small wrestling match that happens inside my psyche that keeps me from such natural aggression. And that's just morning coffee—think about how many times you'd like to strangle somebody on public transportation.

When aggression can't go out, then it has to go inward. So we engage in a kind of self-denial, or self-cruelty. Ultimately this self-cruelty is necessary and good for society—I cannot unleash my murderous tendencies on the whipped-cream-mocha-half-decaf latte drinkers. But my aggression doesn't disappear, it just gets beat down by my own discipline. Subsequently, I feel bad about myself, and I'm supposed to. Magnify all those internal daily struggles by a hundred and you begin to see why Nietzsche thought we were always feeling a little guilty. But historically speaking we didn't really understand this complex psychology—it was, and still is, invisible to us. We just felt bad about ourselves, and slowly developed a theology that made sense out of it. God is perfect and pristine and pure, and we are sinful, unworthy maggots who defile the creation by our very presence. According to Nietzsche, we have historically needed an ideal God because we've needed to be cruel to ourselves, we've needed to feel guilty. And we've needed to feel guilty because we have instincts that cannot be discharged externally—we have to bottle them up.

Feeling unworthy is still a large part of Western religious culture, but many people, especially in multicultural urban centers, are less religious. There are still those who believe that God is watching them and judging them, so their feelings of guilt and moral indignation are couched in the traditional theological furniture. But increasing numbers, in the middle and upper classes, identify themselves as being secular or perhaps "spiritual" rather than religious.

Now the secular world still has to make sense out of its own invisible, psychological drama—in particular, its feelings of guilt and indignation. Environmentalism, as a substitute for religion, has come to the rescue. Nietzsche's argument about an ideal God and guilt can be replicated in a new form: We need a belief in a pristine environment because we need to be cruel to ourselves as inferior beings, and we need that because we have these aggressive instincts that cannot be let out.

Instead of religious sins plaguing our conscience, we now have the transgressions of leaving the water running, leaving the lights on, failing to recycle, and using plastic grocery bags instead of paper. In addition, the righteous pleasures of being more orthodox than your neighbor (in this case being more green) can still be had—the new heresies include failure to compost, or refusal to go organic. Vitriol that used to be reserved for Satan can now be discharged against evil corporate chief executives and drivers of gas-guzzling vehicles. Apocalyptic fear-mongering previously took the shape of repent or burn in hell, but now it is recycle or burn in the ozone hole. In fact, it is interesting the way environmentalism takes on the apocalyptic aspects of the traditional religious narrative. The idea that the end is nigh is quite central to traditional Christianity—it is a jolting wake-up call to get on the righteous path. And we find many environmentalists in a similarly earnest panic about climate change and global warming. There are also high priests of the new religion, with Al Gore ("the Goracle") playing an especially prophetic role.

We even find parallels in environmentalism of the most extreme, self-flagellating forms of religious guilt. Nietzsche claims that religion has fostered guilt to such neurotic levels that some people feel culpable and apologetic about their very existence. Compare this with extreme conservationists who want to sacrifice themselves for trees and whales. And teachers, like myself, will attest to significant numbers of their students who feel that their cats or whatever are equal to human beings. And not only are members of the next generation egalitarian about all life, but they often feel positively awful about the way that their species has corrupted and defiled the whole beautiful symphony of nature. The planet, they feel, would be better off without us. We are not worthy. In this extreme form, one does not seek to reduce one's carbon footprint so much as eliminate one's very being.

Pointing out these parallels is not meant to diminish the environmental cause. We should indeed do the things in our power, and within reason, to sustain the planet. But we have a tendency to become neurotic and overly anxious, especially when we are regularly told, via green marketing ploys, that each one of us is responsible for the survival of the planet. That's a heavy guilt trip.

The same demographic group for whom religion has little or no hold (namely white liberals) turns out to be the most virulent champions of all things green. Is it possible that these folks must vent their moral spleen on environmentalism because they don't have all the theological campaigns (e.g., opposing gay marriage, opposing abortion, etc.) on which social conservatives exercise their indignation?

If environmentalism is a substitute for religion—a way of validating certain emotions—then we might expect to find other secular surrogates for guilt and indignation. Our tendencies to sin, repent, and generally indulge in self-cruelty can be seen cropping up in our obsessions about health and fitness, for example. Struggling with our weight (diet and relapse) has risen above the other deadly sins to take a dominant position in our secular self-persecution. And our resentful aggression still manages to find some occasional pathways to the external world. We may not be able to punch the people we want to punch in real life, but we can turn some of our aggression outward at the reprobates of TV land. What a joyful hatred we all felt at the Octomom or Britney. It was a thoroughly cleansing bit of moral outrage. Or consider the inflamed moral drama for viewers of the Jon & Kate Plus Eight debacle. And more of this kind of indignation, previously reserved for religious condemnation, can be seen and heard everywhere on the screens and airwaves of the 24-hour "news" cycle. Large segments of the news seem calculated to facilitate the catharsis of our built-up resentment. Daytime talk shows and reality shows seem similarly designed to elicit our righteous anger. They form the other side of the religious coin—in addition to the self-cruelty of guilt, we can vent our aggression outwardly (like a crowd at a witch drowning) as long as it's justified by piety and the defense of virtue and orthodoxy.

Environmentalism is a much better hang-up than worrying about the spiritual pitfalls of too much masturbation. Even if it's neurotic, it's still doing some good. But environmentalism, like every other ism, has the potential for dogmatic zeal and obsession. Do we really need one more humorless religion? Let us save the planet, by all means. But let's also admit to ourselves that we have a natural propensity toward guilt and indignation, and let that fact temper our fervor to more reasonable levels.

Stephen T. Asma is a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. His books include On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Why I Am a Buddhist (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2010).

RE: Green Guilt - FastTadpole - 10-15-2010

Quote:New greenwashing guides for renewable energy

By Melissa Mahony | Oct 13, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed new marketing guidelines for companies to follow to avoid greenwashing their products. For the first time since their creation in 1992, the guides will address renewable energy claims.

As guidelines, the rules don’t really have teeth to enforce company compliance. Nevertheless, maybe marketing folk will do so out of a sense of goodwill, good business, or just guilt. The proposed rules go something like this:

* Thou shall not make unqualified renewable energy claims if any bit of the product was made via the combustion of fossil fuels.
* Thou shall not boast carbon offsets if the activity done to achieve the carbon emissions reduction is already required by law.
* Thou shall keep tidy carbon accounting practices and not sell any one offset multiple times.
* Thou shall not say your company uses renewable energy, when it is already selling Renewable Energy Credits for all the energy it is generating.
* The shall specify what type of renewable energy was used (solar, wind, etc.)
* Thou shall reveal to consumer whether an offset’s reduction in carbon emissions does not occur within a two-year span.

The guides are meant to prevent companies from misleading their customers to how environmentally responsible they are. According to EnviroMedia, a social marketing firm for environmental and health issues, one in every ten consumers have complete faith in green marketing claims. (Thou should not be so gullible.) Further, the FTC’s consumer perception study suggested many people don’t know what “renewable” means when referring to product materials, confusing the term with recyclable, compostable, or made via renewable energy.

EnviroMedia co-founder Kevin Tuerff, who helped create an online Greenwashing Index educating consumers to the telltales of eco-misleading advertising (environmentally-friendly fur coats and the like), said in a statement:

The good news is this could be the end of nonsensical claims like ‘clean coal.’ The bad news is the new FTC Green Guides do not address more complicated terms like ‘sustainable.’

The FTC, however, does try to tackle vague claims of “eco-friendliness,” “degradable” (plastics even degrade…eventually), “compostable,” “recyclable,” “non-toxic” and “ozone-safe.” As for eco-labels and organic standards, they fall under the dominion of the USDA’s National Organic Program.

The new FTC green guides are open to public comment until December 10th.

The FTC is welcoming comments - let them hear it!

Quote: For Release: 10/06/2010
Federal Trade Commission Proposes Revised "Green Guides"
Seeks Public Comment on Changes that Would Update Guides and Make Them Easier to Use

The Federal Trade Commission today proposed revisions to the guidance that it gives marketers to help them avoid making misleading environmental claims. The proposed changes are designed to update the Guides and make them easier for companies to understand and use.
The changes to the “Green Guides” include new guidance on marketers’ use of product certifications and seals of approval, “renewable energy” claims, “renewable materials” claims, and “carbon offset” claims. The FTC is seeking public comments on the proposed changes until December 10, 2010, after which it will decide which changes to make final.

“In recent years, businesses have increasingly used ‘green’ marketing to capture consumers’ attention and move Americans toward a more environmentally friendly future. But what companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “The proposed updates to the Green Guides will help businesses better align their product claims with consumer expectations.”

The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 to help marketers ensure that the claims they are making are true and substantiated. The Guides were revised in 1996 and 1998. The guidance they provide includes: 1) general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims; 2) how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and 3) how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.

The proposed Guides issued today include changes designed to strengthen the FTC’s guidance on those marketing claims that are already addressed in the current Guides as well as to provide new guidance on marketing claims that were not common when the Guides were last reviewed. The proposed changes were developed using information collected from three public workshops, public comments, and a study of how consumers understand certain environmental claims.

Proposed Revisions to the Guides

The revised Guides caution marketers not to make blanket, general claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate.

The proposed Guides also caution marketers not to use unqualified certifications or seals of approval – those that do not specify the basis for the certification. The Guides more prominently state that unqualified product certifications and seals of approval likely constitute general environmental benefit claims, and they advise marketers that the qualifications they apply to certifications or seals should be clear, prominent, and specific.

Next, the proposed revised Guides advise marketers how consumers are likely to understand certain environmental claims, including that a product is degradable, compostable, or “free of” a particular substance. For example, if a marketer claims that a product that is thrown in the trash is “degradable,” it should decompose in a “reasonably short period of time” – no more than one year.

New Guidance Proposed

The proposed changes would update the Guides by giving advice about claims that are not addressed in the current Guides, such as claims about the use of “renewable materials” and “renewable energy.” The FTC’s consumer perception research suggests that consumers could be misled by these claims because they interpret them differently than marketers intend. Because of this, the Guides advise marketers to provide specific information about the materials and energy used. Moreover, marketers should not make unqualified renewable energy claims if the power used to manufacture any part of the product was derived from fossil fuels.

The proposed revised Guides also provide new advice about carbon offset claims. Carbon offsets fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in one place in order to counterbalance or “offset” emissions that occur elsewhere. The Guides advise marketers to disclose if the emission reductions that are being offset by a consumer’s purchase will not occur within two years. They also advise marketers to avoid advertising an offset if the activity that produces the offset is already required by law.

The FTC is seeking comment on all aspects of its proposal. Examples include:

* How should marketers qualify “made with renewable materials” claims, if at all, to avoid deception?
* Should the FTC provide guidance concerning how long consumers think it will take a liquid substance to completely degrade?
* How do consumers understand “carbon offset” and “carbon neutral” claims? Is there any evidence of consumer confusion concerning the use of these claims?

A complete set of questions can be found in Section VII of the Guides – Request for Comment.

In addition, the proposed Guides have been reorganized and simplified where possible so they are easier for businesses to read and use.

Finally, either because the FTC lacks a sufficient basis to provide meaningful guidance or because the FTC wants to avoid proposing guidance that duplicates rules or guidance of other agencies, the proposed Guides do not address use of the terms “sustainable,” “natural,” and “organic.” Organic claims made for textiles and other products derived from agricultural products are currently covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.

The Commission vote approving the issuance of the proposed revised Green Guides for public comment was 5-0. They can be found on the FTC’s website and as a link to this press release at A summary of the proposed revised Guides can be found at The FTC is accepting comments on the Guides for 60 days, beginning today and continuing until December 10, 2010. Interested parties can submit comments in paper form by following the instructions in the “Request for Comment” section of the Federal Register notice. Comments can be submitted electronically at:

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs

(FTC File No. P954501)

RE: Green Guilt - resonate - 10-17-2010

I wonder how many people feel guilty about being religious.
I wonder how many people feel guilty about not being religious.
I wonder how many people feel guilty for turning lights off.
I wonder how many people feel guilty because they believe something Nietzsche said.
I wonder how many people feel guilty about not feeling guilty about masterbating.
I wonder how many people feel guilty about feeling guilty.

Guilt is a natural feeling, it has to be cause it's here when it's here.

So, I would say that you only have a problem when you think there's a problem.
Watch the thoughts undulate like the tides, and they become interesting rather than problematic.
Better than that, watch the tides, and take the tyke and the 1/2 mocha 1/2 decaf guy along with ya.