Let’s move beyond a performance: Why Green Day does not do enough


Lauren Kim, Art Director

Last Friday’s Green Day boasted various workshops where people who were interested in environmentalism could learn about ways to help our planet. Despite the event’s good intentions, given the overall engagement of and even naysaying of environmentalism by participants in the workshops, I felt that Green Day also revealed the school’s overall lack of awareness and willingness to take part in environmentalism. Climate change became a front-page issue decades ago, so why don’t we as a community take it seriously? Even more so when we only have about six years left on the Climate Clock before catastrophic effects, such as mass die-offs, diseases, megastorms, and conflict, take place? 

Environmentalism seems perfect as a set of values that, when people follow them, ensure a sustainable future. And yet, there has been significant pushback against environmentalism. Why is this, you may ask? A few reasons: general awareness of climate change, preconceptions, and how we discuss environmentalism as a whole. The ways we engage with environmentalism are our biggest threat to collectively working together to successfully fight our planet’s problems. 

As inhabitants of the Global North, we currently do not bear the brunt of environmental consequences, making it more difficult for us to grasp the concepts of climate change and other environmental issues. Most of my environmental knowledge stems from outside of school, with a few exceptions largely due to a wonderful class called Global Environmental History (thank you Dr. Bales!). But even this course is not available to students before their junior year. 

Of course, we might hear about climate change here and there when we’re younger, but the common doomsaying — making dire predictions — of climate change only scares people and makes them ignorant of this issue. Our work as a community has been inadequate, as many of us aren’t aware of the impacts of our daily food waste or how much carbon dioxide is released with each new piece of clothing that we buy. For us, the Global North, this must become a personal issue, especially since the consequences of our inaction reaches those in the Global South who are oftentimes not to blame. 

In the face of dire environmental catastrophes, it is difficult to not feel hopeless, pushing many to focus on more “solvable” issues. This is the purpose of Green Day; to discuss solutions for climate change together. Idea exchange is unequivocally important, as everyone needs to be aware of the various environmental issues we face, such as over-extraction, warming, and pollution. In order to have these conversations, we must break down the idea of performative environmentalism.

Performative environmentalism is usually seen as a way to raise one’s social capital without putting in much thought into one’s actions. Oftentimes, it has been the one to blame for environmentalism’s shortcomings. While many of us wish that the planet was not in this dire of a situation, we are unwilling to do the often difficult work needed to tackle this issue. We cannot act on temporary self-satisfaction alone. Performative environmentalism has created a demeaning image for people who work to help the planet and a safety net for people who turn away. Changing this image will be hard, but doomsaying won’t get us anywhere. 

Teaching students about the environment helps to foster compassion because they learn of how fragile the world they live in is, whether it’s climate science implemented into humanities courses like Global Environmental History or dedicated science classes to discuss these same issues. After all, making an effort to garner support for environmentalism with a wider scope could ensure more opportunities for engagement with the environment.

I believe that Green Day should encompass a more diverse and interdisciplinary range of topics while still focusing on the planet’s most pressing problems. While the day covered important topics such as films, recycling, and sports, there is still room to grow. For example, new workshops could explore topics such as political science with environmental policy or architecture for climate-safe buildings. Other topics could include the human psychology of doomsaying and the effects societal prejudices have on the environment. These changes don’t need to be limited to Green Day — they could become a part of the school’s culture.

I am glad that the school offers students the opportunity to discuss these issues since there’s no shame in realizing that what we have been doing as a community has been insufficient. Green Day should serve as a reminder for all of us that the HM community can always learn more. It should show us different paths we can take to collectively solve global issues. I’m so excited that more people are expressing their interests, but we should always strive to be more. I hope that in the coming years, nothing will deter anyone from committing to environmentalism.