Of Priuses and pick-up trucks

By Bob Worcester

The world seems caught in a conflict between “globalists”, the urban elites who welcome and support the world-wide integration of communications, commerce and transportation, and “localists” who view with suspicion the move from traditions, home and family to the “new world order” and its chaotic clash of cultures.

One is tempted to call this a conflict between the hillbillies and the city slickers, but perhaps a ‘red’ and ‘blue’ viewpoint is a less loaded classification. Jim Hoggan’s timely book I’m Right and You’re an Idiot identifies the toxic quality of these conflicts and recommends that understanding is a prerequisite for constructive conversations.

I would like to suggest that between the red and the blue view of the world is a green perspective that, like old 3-D glasses, provides more depth and clarity than that found in most current discussion of this new world we are moving into.

Polarization is not new to politics since often one is either “with us” or “against us” on any number of issues such as Peace Site C, the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, or trophy hunting. Of course there are always grey areas but that spectrum still often ranges from black to white. ‘Green’ adds colour to the discourse.

Between the global and the local perspective is an ‘ecological’ view which implies that everything has its role and place. This may sound like a wishy-washy perspective but it is not. Globalists see local perspectives as too limited and narrow yet the global is made up of a mosaic of local conditions, each of which emerged from the particular circumstances of that region. Locals discount the cosmopolitans as out of touch with the day-to-day realities of lived experience.

It is not surprising that groups polarize around their particular issues – jobs, growth or limits. What is unfortunate is that environmentalists often contribute to that polarization unnecessarily. As Hoggan suggests, “you’re wrong” quickly degenerates into “you’re evil!” The ‘green’ viewpoint steps back to find the bigger picture that puts both red and blue in perspective.

That, of course, is more easily said than done. Construction of the Peace Site C dam may very well bring jobs and prosperity to many people in the region while displacing others. It may allow Albertans to close down their fossil fueled electrical utilities but still encourage fracking. First Nations do not always agree among themselves on what is in their best interests and may resent that “city slickers” get to call the shots. It is easy to see how anger and resentment emerge regardless of the outcome. The green perspective may not avoid conflict but it can, at least, appreciate that their positions affect people and there may be three or more sides to an issue.

There are legitimate concerns to be addressed and not papered over as “deplorable.” The green perspective will recognize that being in the majority on an issue is not a reassurance that it is wise. Popular causes are notoriously fickle and “all movements go too far” according to Bertrand Russell. The green perspective is not just the middle ground between two extremes, it can be a radical position beyond either extreme – something outside the lines of the conventional. The green perspective dives deeper into the imagination to find things unseen – “your young people shall see visions, and your old people shall dream dreams.” Here is where a ‘green’ vision can go further. If egotists can become tribalists and globalists can become ecologically-minded, then what can ‘green’ become?

Nature provides a deep, rich model of how the world works, but perhaps that view too is limited. Spiritual traditions claim that now we “see through the glass darkly” and that more depth may be revealed. If the old movie goggles with red and blue lenses converted hazy images on the screen into three dimensions then maybe ‘green’ with ultraviolet lenses can give us even more dimensions. Our ‘cosmological’ understanding keeps astonishing us with quantum possibilities of multi-verses and dark matter. Ecological understanding may yet give way to something cosmological that we have yet to imagine.

For now, it would seem that the “wisdom of the elders” is to see the world with new eyes, perhaps even the eyes of a child. Biologists tell us that evolution is random, chaotic and no particular outcome is more natural than another, yet we feel that some outcomes are better, truer, more beautiful than others. Let us trust that feeling and look into the greening future with hope, imagination and grit.




  1. Well, in this article I was looking for a specific reference to the Prius car and a Pickup and what values and flaws each represent. Instead I read a lot about Red vs Blue yet Green is best. Some mixed analogies here eg USA politics red democrats and blue republicans and green independents/environmentalists. I think truly understanding a topic goes deeper than just taking a look at it through a coloured lens. It takes unlayering the many aspects of it and engaging with many viewpoints regarding that issue. Site C dam development represents history, politics, immediate employment, environmental sustainability, carbon emissions, housing, the economy, etc. etc. including both “city slickers and hillbillies”. Great analysis is needed.

  2. I understand what is meant by being “red” and “blue” if by that you mean (using the US definition of the colours–which is not what most of the world uses), “blue” is liberal and “red” is conservative. Roughly it means in the blue case a priority of the care vs. harm value, and with “red” its a concern with other universal values as well as care (e.g. authority, sanctity, loyalty, liberty, fairness, etc.).
    But I have no idea what you mean by a “green” priority of values except perhaps that it is somewhere in between. Green suggests nature (or Nature) is all important, but then you say that its view of how the world works is too limited. Saying “the green perspective dives deeper into the imagination to find things unseen” is poetic language, but I don’t really know what you mean. I think you need to clarify, if you can.
    I think Haight’s analysis, that we all have a somewhat similar constellation of values but place a differing emphasis or priority on them, is the most useful. I find myself at times being more conservative about something (say, the need to preserve a neighbourhood or a natural vista), at other time more liberal, calling for action (to reduce atmospheric carbon via a carbon tax, for instance). Values can reinforce each other, or they can conflict. There is no systematic answer–only situational ethics. Situational ethics can be problematical at times, descending into moral relativism. But we have to be moderate even in our moderation.

  3. I totally agree with your thesis on the value of a green perspective, as you define and describe it. The question then immediately arises as to how do we (the Suzuki Elders) contribute to the propagation of such a perspective in the broad community? Right now, our educational and communication attempts are directed almost totally at people and groups who are already “green”. If we were to be really effective we would be talking directly to pick-up truck owners, grizzly bear hunters and Calgary oilmen. After you, mon ami.

  4. “Red” and “Blue” provide a short-hand for two world views that seem to dominate current political perspectives. “Green” is intended NOT as just another viewpoint but as an “over-view” of how political ecologies interact. From that perspective conflict between the reds and blues is “interdependent” – REDs speak with “local knowledge” of the home, the family and the neighbourhood – BLUEs speak from the bureaucratic/managerial perspective of the “urban elite.” GREENs look for the optimum interaction of the shared values (authority, sanctity, loyalty, liberty, fairness, caring) recognizing that the “global” incorporates and does not diminish the “local” as ‘deplorable’ but is its very foundation. Ken Wilber sees an entire spectrum of red, amber, blue, green and ultraviolet corresponding to states and stages of awareness. The colours help us from seeing the world merely in terms of black and white.

  5. The dichotomy seems overly simplistic and somewhat American to me — it doesn’t correspond to my experience. I live in a small town in an agricultural and logging region on Vancouver Island. There are lots of pickup trucks, people are mostly strong localists, yet we have a Green MLA and an NDP MP. Farmers and working-class people seem to have strongly-held concerns about the environment. People feel powerless because our government seems to be controlled by resource industries and not by the people.

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