The backlash is upon us.
It was always only a matter of time before those opposed to the steady march of the green movement used the economic slowdown to try and force it back to the margins of the political debate - and this week they were out in force.
Mayor Boris, for example, celebrated getting through 100 days in office without any humiliating groveling apologies (give it time, they'll come) by scrapping a flagship zero carbon vehicle project, while professional controversialist Julie Burchill offered up her assessment of environmentalists as "supremely unsexy" hypocritical poshos who manufacture their concern over the environment as an excuse to tell poorer people what to do (much to the amusing chagrin of George Monbiot).
Meanwhile, over at The Times columnist Alice Thompson offered a thorough assessment of why "being green is not cool anymore", arguing that the "the chilly economic climate... has frozen the shoots of environmentalism". Citing static demand organic produce and a MORI poll showing that the proportion of people who rank the environment as one of their top three concerns has fallen from 15 to 10 per cent in the last year, she argued that "espousing the green life, with its misshapen vegetables and non-disposable nappies, is increasingly being seen as a luxury by everyone".
Admittedly, she concludes that a desire to lower energy and food bills means people are behaving in a greener manner by growing their own veg and trying to embrace energy efficiency, but the crux of the argument remains that the environment is fast receding as a political and business topic.
What is so interesting about these attacks is that both Thompson and Burchill, perhaps wilfully, are addressing an extremely narrow and increasingly outdated idea of what constitutes an environmentalist.
The idea that the green movement is faltering because fewer people can afford to buy organic Swedes or because environmentalists are still perceived as hair shirt attired hippies completely fails to comprehend the extent to which the green movement has shifted in recent years from niche popular movement to critical economic issue.
Demand for organic fruit and veg and other green consumer products will undoubtedly drop off as people tighten their belts, but the importance of this market to the green business movement has always been overstated (in fact you can make a case for it not being green at all given organic crops lower yields and the requirement at a time of rising food prices for more land to be given over to farming).
The business world's interest in green issues has always been more about the opportunities and challenges presented by the massive structural shift towards a low carbon economy than opening up a couple of relatively small new consumer markets. As such the economic slowdown will have negligible impact on the emerging clean technologies and green business models that truly define the green business movement. In fact, with the slowdown caused in no small part by rising energy prices there is a strong case for saying that the case for greener and more energy efficient infrastructure and processes.
Right, I'm off to put my money in Brazil.
Have a good weekend,
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