Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's All Green To Me

The dictionary defines green as “a color intermediate in the spectrum between yellow and blue, an effect of light with a wavelength between 500 and 570 nm” Of course, that is not the response you’d hear from most people when asked to describe the color green. Should they do so the conversation might be somewhat short lived!

Green is not a primary color (colors that cannot be created by mixing others); rather, it is achieved by mixing two primaries—yellow and blue. On the traditional color wheel its corresponding color is red.

Most people recognize green for what it is: just a color. But it is much more than that. Linguistically, its origins go back to the old English word, growan, “to grow”. It has uses in everyday life, especially in colloquialisms.

When green is good you can cruise through the traffic lights. Should you have a good idea you might get a green light to proceed. Someone with a green thumb is good with plants, which are often green themselves. If you are bored with what you are doing you might want to move to greener pastures, hoping that the grass is greener on the other side.

But when green is bad, watch out for the green-eyed monster lurking in the background. And don’t put your entire faith in someone who is still green, much less go near them if they are green around the gills.

Mixing green: Mix it with blue and it produces echoes of nature – water and forest; with brown it screams “organic”; coupled with red it is festive, the color of Christmas.

Many words are synonymous with green – sage, pine, mint, moss, fir, jade, and many more besides. Emeralds are green and so are some animals, notably frogs and lizards. Some just appear green; others really are. In nature taking on a green hue is good camouflage. Humans, too, have imitated this by wearing green in military and in other fields. Green signifies growth, health, and renewal; though culturally it has contradictory meanings.

Color psychology tells us that green is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is seen as calm and refreshing. People waiting to appear on stage sit in “green rooms” to relax. Hospitals use green because it relaxes patients.

On a light note green M&Ms are rumored to be an aphrodisiac though this is likely due to the genius of marketing rather than anything else.

In folklore green has traditionally been used to symbolize fertility and rebirth. In Ireland it comes in 40 shades, but in Britain it’s thought to be unlucky, which might explain why you see few green cars on British roads.

It is the symbol of environmentalism. It is also the main color many Islamic countries use on their flags. In fact, the only national flag in the world that has just one color with no design or insignia is green – Libya’s.

Perhaps when historians look back at our age green may come to define it, the age in which we woke up to the “green” earth. As a concept, that might mean taking the focus away from our endless consumption and towards the idea of living a more thoughtful life. Instead of having things, doing things.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where conservation was the norm and not something that people are coerced or paid to do. Unfortunately green is also the color of money. Too many people are profiting from their green advocacy without really doing anything but talking about being green. When it comes down to it they don’t walk the walk.

Just look at what has happened the past few years and insert the name of someone opposite of your political point of view. Then see if you would believe them the same way that you believe proponents now. Let’s say that Dan Quayle was the ex-politician who started lecturing around the country saying that the earth is warming at an alarming rate and that it is the burning of fossil fuels that is causing this warming. I imagine that many people would think that Mr. Quayle has an ulterior motive behind his speeches. What does he have to gain by traveling around the world giving speeches about the environment? Would you question why he is using so much carbon to travel so far to give the same speech over and over again without supplying concrete answers of how people can make a real difference right now? Especially when there is something so global like the internet where he could conference with many people at once. After all, he did invent the internet, didn’t he? Maybe that was someone else.

Also ask yourself, do the lawmakers really want people to be green. The people that talk about windmills are the same ones that make laws that prohibit people from putting them on their property. One prominent national politician made sure they weren’t allowed anywhere near where he could see them from his vacation home, and locally there are nuisance laws keeping individuals from having them on their property.

My proposition is to think of one “green” thing and see how many people will follow along and then add to the list for others to follow. Mine is to cut out bottled water. I can’t think of a more wasteful enterprise than bottle water in a country with clean water available from the tap. (which is where most bottled water comes from in the first place.)

allinaword said...


I suspect that in generation conservation will be so much part and parcel of life that people will struggle to understand our endless consumption and over use of landfills. And if green is the color of money then maybe we just need to turn capitalism loose on the green economy to make it “pay”.

A few years ago I wrote a college paper about the phenomenon of bottled water and managed to learn a thing or two. People might be shocked to learn that two very well known bottled water products, one made by Pepsi, the other by Coke, use as their source not the crystal clear water of mountain streams but municipal tap water.

C’mon, now, you can’t knock the guy who invented the internet!