Okay, so actually it’s two words that together signify one concept, but don’t take issue with me over it. Oxford University Press announced carbon neutral as the word of the year.
“Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power.
Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary 2e, said “The increasing use of the word carbon neutral reflects not just the greening of our culture, but the greening of our language. When you see first graders trying to make their classrooms carbon neutral, you know the word has become mainstream.”
This mainstreaming of a somewhat wonky environmental concept offers an opportunity to reflect upon other ways in which concepts from the environmental movement have crept into pop culture. As beleaguered as much of the environmental movement may have fancied itself so far this decade, due to an unfavorable political climate in the U.S., some progress has still been made. Some celebrities have started to ditch SUV-limos in favor of hybrids to arrive at red carpet events. Al Gore made a big splash with An Inconvenient Truth, forcing many in the U.S. to confront the reality of climate change at a time when public discourse on the issue still called it into question. We’ve also seen leadership on the city and state levelballoon into something of a grassroots groundswell to reduce our emissions. Even corporations like Wal-Mart and Google have announced major initiatives to curb their emissions, and take the first steps towards sustainability.
While Bush certainly has not been the right president to elect to champion environmental protection, I never saw his election as a reason to give up hope. A good president can certainly give a cause a megaboost, but even Bush’s rather apathetic stance on climate change couldn’t stop us–there was just too to accomplish. So far this decade climate action didn’t come from the federal level, top down, in one ceremonious presidential signing ceremony. So what? Even in the 2006, during the reign of President Bush, “carbon neutral” became the word of the year. Yep, on his watch.