What is Brown Before Green?

Here at mikeroweWORKS, we believe that everything was brown before it was green and that’s where people should start. Or so we think anyway. Watch the video and see what the term “Brown Before Green” actually means.

From Mike’s Forum on Discovery:

“Human beings are embedded in nature. I think the implications of this run much deeper than our requesting improved pollution control or better environmental protections. This way of thinking continues the myth that we are somehow separated from nature. I think the environment is not a scenic backdrop, it is the play itself.

We are dependent upon nature, not the reverse. Going green, brown or whatever terminology you wish to use, requires that we shift from managing resources to managing ourselves.

However the rules of economics want continued growth forever. Economics tends to be a war of annihilation in order to compete.

The rules of Earth are to grow appropriately and no more. Rather than getting bigger, earth gets better. Novelty and complexity increase, but still remain within absolute limits. This is a community; take only what you need, leave your competitor enough. And whenever possible, cooperation is much more energy efficient than competition.

To save ourselves, we will have to want different things, seek different pleasures, and pursue different goals, than those that are currently driving us and our global economy. Do we have any intention on leaving future generations the means to exist?

This is way past being skeptical about ideas such as reusing dirty laundry, or not flushing. The Marriott Hotel chain claims it has saved 17% on hot water and sewer bills. Isn’t it more important to question what happened to this windfall? Or to point out to them the hypocrisy of selling bottled water?

Mike, I don’t think you are surprised that in our current industrial society, profit will always be the objective.”


Mike Rowe: I’m not surprised at all. The problem comes when we conceal that objective.

“So what is your motive for doing a public article pointing it out?

I don’t appreciate being manipulated. I feel that way when a company plays upon fear or guilt to sell me a widget. I don’t particularly care what the widget is. The vast inventory of “green” products are not being manufactured because corporations are overcome with a sudden desire to “save the planet.” However, they are being marketed to us in precisely that way. It’s disingenuous. Green says, “you should buy this environmentally friendly bulb because it’s good for the planet.” Brown says, “you should buy this environmentally bulb if it’s good for your wallet.” We will not create a healthy environment, in my opinion, if we continue to anthropomorphize nature, and insist on making every purchase a moral imperative. Such tactics will only succeed in the short term, and ultimately lead to resentment.

To my way of thinking your ‘brown’ movement runs parallel to the ‘green’ one. You are profiting from this stance.

Absolutely. I’ve got no beef with capitalism. As I said, brown before green – not instead of green. Without profit, Brown and Green are both doomed. However, hiding profit, or deliberately presenting a business transaction as an ethical choice, will fail spectacularly, in my opinion.

What is the true goal here?

To promote Dirty Jobs. To take a position that doesn’t fit neatly into a box, but still reflects the way I feel. To suggest, humbly, that the best role models for maintaining a healthy environment might not be movie stars and politicians. To further suggest that making money and being environmentally responsible are not mutually exclusive. To stimulate conversation. To put the people before the planet. To rankle. To amuse. The usual stuff.

May I please say without drawing your ire that I think you want to remain within certain comfortable boundaries while trying to get your message across?

Sure. But if I were concerned about being in comfortable boundaries, why would I take a position guaranteed to annoy many?

I feel like you are dancing around the edge without jumping all the way in.

The environment is not my issue. I’m only jumping in to the point where I can apply my observations through the lens of the show I produce. I’m not qualified or motivated to jump all the way in.

I’m trying to get past my thoughts that you are just out to make a buck as much as the next guy.

Are you asking me to try and convince you that I’m different? To reassure you that I’m not all about the money? To better explain myself? Or do you just want me to know that I am running the risk of disappointing you? I don’t mind being judged or doubted. But trying to convince you that I’m one thing or the other is not something I do.

I have long been convinced of the merits of being brown. Your show has given so many concrete examples of how this can work. Why do I get the sense that Mike Rowe is somewhat insincere in his delivery defending this?

That’s not a question I can answer. You can however, and perhaps you do in the next sentence.

May I suggest that you are finding yourself in the slippery position of using your fame in a way that you have criticized others of doing?

You may, but I’ll disagree, respectfully. I have been critical in the past of celebrities who align themselves with a popular cause or candidate. I have done neither. In fact, I have taken a somewhat contrary position against a wildly popular movement that I believe to be flawed. Dirty Jobs is not about “saving the planet.” It’s about working for a living. I believe that saving the planet, (assuming it needs to be saved,) should be a function of working for a living. Not a cause unto itself.

I would say it is better to defend your thoughts wholeheartedly than appear smug.

You might be right, but I’d rather appear smug than earnest. In the end, I find smug a lot less offensive.

“Maybe it’s time we all grew up and realized the Earth is no longer our Mother but rather she has become our sick child. How much would you sacrifice to make your desperately ill child well??”

I think these kind of metaphors contribute to the confusion of what’s really happening. The Earth is neither a parent or a sibling. It’s a cold indifferent rock that has no awareness of our presence. It kills indiscriminately, with earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and the like.

The whole spirit of going Green is to be what we humans who are at the top of the food chain should be. Stewards of the earth. Not greedy, selfish grasping thoughtless mindless users who just move on to what we can use up next.

Just for fun, what if we are not the “stewards of the earth.” Imagine our current society millions of years ago, living on Pangea – the earth as it was before the continents began to separate. What would we have done when we realized the earth was falling into pieces and drifting off into the ocean? In the resulting chaos, how would we view our planet? Would we view her as a sick child? A gentle Mother? Would we look to ourselves as the cause of the problem? I suspect that many would. Because that’s the natural thing to do when you see yourself at the very top of the food chain. But what if we’re not? What if the earth is at the top, and we are merely at her mercy? From what I’ve seen, that’s what natural history suggests. That doesn’t mean we don’t owe it to each other to clean up after ourselves. It just means the earth was here long before we were, and will endure long after we’re gone.

It seems every company in America is going green because it sells. I don’t believe in man made global warming, I could give you plenty of reasons but the fact is I don’t think anyone wants to hear them, everyone is enjoying this “save the earth” movement too much. I’d like to add that I care about the earth, I use and re-use and recycle, conserve and consider myself a good steward of the earth. I’ve taught my family to do likewise.

Roger that.

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