Environmentalists and green marketers are always talking about “saving the planet.” Buy this car, this laundry detergent, or this light bulb and you will help save “the planet” or “nature” or “the environment.” Jenny Price, for one, wishes they’d stop.
Price is an activist, historian, and self-appointed Los Angeles urban ranger. When she’s not trying to inject a little humor into the generally unfunny world of environmental preaching with her satiric blog Green Me Up, JJ, she gives tours of the concretized L.A. River. She’d be happy to tell you why she loves the river, why it is every bit a part and parcel of “nature,” and why she thinks that places like this have got to be at the core of the environmental movement.
When it comes to rhetoric about “saving the planet,” she has two main beefs: First, it encourages a “greener-than-thou” form of preachy consumerism that does not encourage real change nor help those most in need. Second, the rhetoric clings desperately to the historical notion that nature = pristine wilderness, obscuring the muddy, mixed up reality visible in places like her beloved L.A. River.
Price, who calls herself a “lapsed wilderness-loving environmentalist,” doesn’t think we should stop caring about how sustainable our consumption is, but she does believe that we need to inhabit nature instead of trying to save it. We need to think a lot more about people, she says, and about creating communities and providing food and jobs both sustainably and equitably. In short, we need to deal with the real world.
We sat down with Price recently to talk about her street-level view of environmentalism, and how we can create a new movement that transcends class and socioeconomic divides.
This interview is part of the Generation Anthropocene project, in which Stanford students partake in an inter-generational dialogue with scholars about living in an age when humans have become a major force shaping our world.