Asia Insider Minute - Green is the New Black
Updated: Feb 11, 2019
“The American delegation came to promote coal. And the kids laughed in their faces.” That was the opener to a recent CNN.com post recounting the US delegations stance at this week’s United Nations Climate Talks in Poland. "It's so ridiculous. It's a joke," 19-year-old Vic Barrett told the CNN reporter.
Two months ago the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) issued a damning assessment of our progress to contain carbon emissions. In one of the most comprehensive undertakings to date, 830 leading climate scientists scrutinized thousands of reports over a six year period to conclude that we have less than 12 years to act before global temperatures rise more than 1.5C, triggering new levels of flood, draught and extreme heat. Containing climate change in the stated and newly abbreviated timeframe is a monumental task. And yet, anti-globalization reigns. What we need is a unified public policy approach and unfettered private sector commitment. What are the odds?
In these times, it’s hard not to be cynical. But then I met Stephanie Dickson. She’s the founder of Green is the New Black, a Singapore-based organization that brings together conscious creators and social enterprise entrepreneurs. In our most recent Inside Asia episode, the focus was on fashion, but Stephanie speaks to a higher purpose - one that supersedes any specific industry and looks to the relationship that her generation has with corporations, big brands and sustainability.
She’s younger than me (of course) and a member of the generation that has come to be known as the Millennials. As always, it’s possible to overstate what separates generations, but I felt it strongly—and not in a bad way—during our conversation. She is—to use her own term for it—“woke” and what that means is that she is - first and foremost - a conscious consumer.
In the same way, Stephanie had what she describes as a quarter life crisis, one in which she felt an absence of meaning, a lack of direction. She did the only thing she could think to do. She created a community, and with it, a way of building common purpose. It gave her direction. For Stephanie, that awakening - that refusal of the status quo - had also to do with a refusal to turn a blind eye to the environmental and labor abuses that were taken for granted…that were understood as necessary in the fashion industry.
The important thing to realize is that she is not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of Millennials entering the workforce each year and from all corners of the globe. There’s a consciousness and an intent on asking the questions that, for years, have been understood as unaskable.
I think of my own generation and how we assumed there would be trade-offs. Making high-quality products at low prices means using resources – and lots of it. But that’s Capitalism, right? Wrong! Companies that once shrank behind PR smokescreens and opaque regulations are suddenly – and thankfully - being held accountable – not by institutions – but by people like Stephanie who armed with easy access to information and social media are able to promote or condemn bad behavior on the fly.
I think about the abuses of power and in my jaded, “late-in-life” way, I say fine the bastards! Shut them down. Make them pay! Not Stephanie. She’s not looking to overturn Capitalism, she wants to wake it up. And, as she sees it, one of the key ways to do this is to set an example, inspire change, then enlist fashion-industry heavyweights to join in. It’s a kind of co-opting through kindness. Clever, right?
Was I struck by Stephanie’s youthful optimism? Yes, I was. But that’s not the point. her plan has less to do with innocence and idealism and more to do with sound principals of group psychology. This is no Woodstock movement where a generation of free spirits head out to Yasgur’s Farm to free their souls and thumb their noses as the status quo. No, this is a movement of educated and outspoken professionals more interested in building up what we have rather than tearing down all we’ve got. Armed with smart phones clarity of purpose, this generation will use the tools of Capitalism’s making to make the Capitalists accountable. It’s happening now, and will most assuredly happen in the days ahead. The decision we—the elders—have to make is whether to remain silently outraged or give over to a new way – a Millennial way – of demanding change then actually doing something about it. It’s a new breed of activism with universal implications. Time to get on board!
For more discussions on the environment and its implications for Asia, visit the Inside Asia website at www.insideasiapodcast.com. There you can download and listen to my conversation with Mark Clifford, author of The Greening of Asia, or Assaad Razzouk, CEO of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources and one of the world’s most outspoken advocates of clean energy. Care about our oceans? Listen to my conversation with Richard Vevers, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Agency. And not to be missed, my discussion with David Emmett, the head of Conservation International in Asia.
Environment could prove the biggest issue of our times. Please join the conversation. Send us your thoughts and comments. Get active!
Thanks for listening!