Going Green ?

The ecologic [green] discourse seems to be very similar to a securitizing discourse. Both operate on a mechanism where a threat is identified, and where certain measures are taken to prevent the threat from materializing and to maintain order. Indeed, order seems to very important for the green discourse, at a grassroot, urban level, at least. It’s very interesting to see how, along ideas of preserving nature, wildlife, the ecosystem and so on, the discourse operates with a large amount of conservative concepts, such as order, cleaniness, the value of work and so on.

A whole array of ‘green’ regulations in cities, including penalties for stepping on the grass, loitering, graffitti, bycicle lanes and so on, but also regulations against homeless shelters, gypsy settlements – all seem to be signs of a discourse with a specific target: the territorialization of the city in a certain way, for a certain group of inhabitants. Creating ‘green’ spaces actually means creating ordered, clean and prosperous spaces for the middle class. It is telling, in this respect, that most of the time, the dirty-ness of the city is blamed on the wandering homeless and the underclass, which are unable to clean and beautify their habitats, thus contributing to the city’s ‘filthy’ image.

The cleanest places are always those that bear marks of heavy investment: newly painted houses, fresh lawns, minimised agricultural appendices [such as vegetable gardens or domestic animals], clean and repaired streets and so on. It is not just about keeping it clean – it’s about a certain kind of cleaninness, one with a price only certain residents can afford. From what I see around me at least, the green discourse seems to be embraced mostly by highly educated, middle class people in their twenties and thirties, with a stable, high-income job. Indeed, it takes a high income to be able to use only ‘bio’ materials, eat ‘bio’ food, and afford to take some time off after work to do the cute cleaning. It takes a high income to afford a sanitized home in a city where a lot of people live crowded in old, nearly crumbled buildings, or simply in self-made tents and shelters. It takes a high income, I guess, to make that ominous connection between the poor and dirt, a connection which starts from sight and smell, and ends up in judgemental arguments about the lazyness of the unemployed. And of course, as they are dirty, so they are dangerous, thus an object of urban security.

Certainly, this is just an aspect of ecologism, and clearly it is not what it’s all about. But I must confess that it is intriguing to see what a fascist tone some of these ‘green’ reforms can take, how much self-righteousness hides behind these people who, from a priviledged position, take on the underclass for being messy, dis-ordered and foul. And talking about priviledges, how many ecologists live without a computer, cell phone, even car, how many of them live without current and constant access to electricity, water and heating? – all of which eat a good deal of Mother Earth’s resources, and most of which are scarcely available to the poor and homeless.


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