Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Does Green Even Mean?

Recently, two Park seniors were in charge of a project that resulted in the introduction of new green parking spaces in all three of the campus parking lots.  These spaces ask parking lot users to kindly reserve the spots for eco-friendly vehicles.  These vehicles include electric, hybrid, and diesel cars, as well as cars used for carpooling.  The idea is that drivers are rewarded for being “green.”

At face value, this seems like a great idea; our senior class even gave some of our fundraising money to the project to help pay for the newly painted spaces.  After all, who could argue with the promotion of eco-friendly consumption?  Unfortunately, nothing is ever that simple.

While driving a hybrid car is undoubtedly a great thing for our environment, it doesn’t necessarily equate with environmental consciousness.  Some even go as far as to say that these parking spaces discriminate financially against drivers.  And I think that to a certain degree, they’re right.  It seems kind of messed up that the leader of the CCCP*  might have to park in the back of the lot while someone who couldn’t care less about the environment might have a space reserved for them because their parents paid for a Lexus hybrid.

Obviously, it’s not black and white.  The argument can certainly be made who paid for the car is not important; a hybrid is still helping our environment no matter who drives it.  Furthermore, the spaces are reserved for carpoolers as well, so those who are truly environmentally conscious in their habits will benefit regardless.  Perhaps an even more compelling argument for the spaces is that incentive really isn’t very steep.  An extra 50 feet of walking pales in comparison to the message that the spaces send—the environment matters and it should matter to you.

I have a hard time arguing with the promotion of an eco-conscious community.  At the same time, I’m cognizant of the economic divide that it has the potential to create.  The environment and privilege are two issues that are both incredibly prevalent at Park, and its difficult to quantify the significance of both.  I’m not even going to try to decide which is more important in this particular situation.  What I will say though, is that I have the deepest respect for those brave enough to question an action like this.  It’s easy to dismiss the green spaces as nothing but good, as most people definitely will.  I know I’m curious to hear what others think about this situation because I know I’m not sold either way.

*Climate Change Committee at Park