User login

A Community of Green Bloggers & Activists

My Company 'tis of Thee

Talk about a cover-up. Just today, the Boston Globe disclosed that electricity giant NStar has been conducting a secret operation that allows their customers to pay more to get their electricity from wind power rather than a carbon-polluting source. Actually, the program, NStar Green,” isn’t a company secret -- but I hadn’t heard of it, none of my neighbors had, and Brookline Climate Action had to go door-to-door to tell people about it. It might as well be secret.

I don’t think NStar Green is some big, bad greenwashing scheme. NStar probably let the program languish because investing more money in it would yield little profit. And that’s okay, because it’s not NStar’s job make clean energy -- or dirty energy. It’s NStar’s job to make money. A corporation is responsible for making profit, and anything after that is optional as long as it’s legal.

But, as long as NStar Green is voluntary it won’t have many subscribers. That’s what Ed Loechler of Brookline Climate Action finds when he goes door-to-door encouraging people to sign up. People repeatedly tell him they like the idea of NStar Green, but it costs too much. Makes sense to me: people don’t want to join if they think they're part of a small minority sacrificing for the rest. And they'd be right. If you engage in shared sacrifice then you’re part of a community; sacrifice for others’ benefit and you’re a sucker. If Americans want to avoid the worst of global warming we’ll have to give up the luxuries we’re used to having, and only the US government can make that happen equitably. What if we’d fought Nazi Germany like we’re fighting global warming? Good intentions and fictional corporate responsibility wouldn’t get you much.

Today, corporations are woven tighter into America’s social fabric than ever before. We look to corporations for our culture, identity, self esteem, and other social functions. A few people joining NStar Green might feel good, but that won’t do much about global warming. Respected climate scientists say we’re almost out of time to avoid the worst; some of them are hopeless and some aren’t. They predict that if we let global warming spin out of control, the initial result will be economic collapse. After that, corporations will evaporate, and what remains will be us and the world we’ve made. However, in a state like Massachusetts you can go beyond good intentions, sidestep corporations, and have a nice, long dialogue with your representative about how much work remains to fight global warming.