Pique ’n Your Interest 

Green washed?

Hey you - yes you in the green shirt - come here. I've got three important questions to ask you.

See, I am conducting a simple experiment in scientific knowledge, inspired by the California Academy of Sciences. Though I must admit, my test is much more, what's the word, casual then the folks down in San Francisco. They've got more money and prestige than a person like me. But now I am getting off topic.

First up on my list of questions to get you armed against green washing: how long does it take the Earth to revolve around the Sun? Did I hear you say a year? Congratulations, that's correct. Only 53 per cent of American adults surveyed by the academy answered that correctly.

OK, since you did so well on question number one, lets see how you fare on question number two. Did the earliest humans live at the same time as dinosaurs? Why are you starting to laugh? No, I know it seems obvious, but only 59 per cent of American adults got this question right. Yeah, you heard me correctly: 59 per cent. Hard to believe, I know. Humans and dinosaurs existed 65 million years apart from each other.

But let's not get off topic again. Question number three, I think you will find, is a bit trickier. What percentage of Earth's surface is covered by water? Ah, just as I predicted, you look confused. Don't worry. Only 47 per cent of adults surveyed answered this one correct. The answer is 71 per cent.

I have to say, I was so caught off guard hearing the results of this survey that I had to try it out myself. And, you are right, U.S. adults are different than Canadian ones. Still, I am happy to see you got a 67 per cent score.

But don't get too full of yourself. You still struggled with the third question. Actually I did too when I first tried to answer it. Which is funny, considering we both need to consume 2.7 to 3.7 litres of water a day.

By the way, did you know only 3 per cent of the planet's water is drinkable? Nerve-wracking. I just found that out. You would think both you and I would be a bit more aware of the fundamentals of our life. Especially since those fundamentals seem to be disappearing so fast.

Yes, you bring up another good point, my green shirted friend. It is ironic how we have no problem recounting who won the Oscars this year, and yet know nothing about water. Can we blame the media for that one also?

You know, I have been thinking, with all this talk about "environmental sustainability," I find it astounding how few adults have a sound understanding of biology.

How can we base our governments, our businesses and our private lives around green living when we don't understand the basics behind such practices? Are we just going to take a back seat and listen to the higher ups? I think you would agree with me in saying history has shown us how important it is to question every word uttered out of a powerful person's mouth.

Let's be straight up: Environmental sustainability without science holds as much factual weight as religion.

Actually - while we are on this subject - the other week I went to check out a development proposal, and I was taken aback to hear the president behind the project speak so proudly about how sustainable and environmental the whole thing was.

Sure, I thought, he has included some aspects in his design that are better for the environment than others, but still, the facts about this project are that the development is just not good for the ecosystem.

No, I am not saying I am against the development. That is a different argument, and a much stickier one too. What I am saying is I am against powerful people using words like "bio," "green" and "eco" in an attempt to green wash the public: to try and twist human sprawl into the best thing our trees and rivers have ever seen.

Oh, you too have noticed a lot more green washing going on in our world lately? I am glad to hear it - I was worried I was getting overly paranoid.

Hey, did you hear that the Better Business Bureau included "green washing" as one of the Top 10 Scams in 2008? Apparently, like, 99 per cent of products that claim to be green aren't. Funny, huh?

Actually that is why I asked you my three questions in the first place. To see how well you understand science and to make sure we are all up to speed on our facts. We need to be, don't you think, to avoid manipulation by agenda driven authorities? Because, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of this world, science is one of the few things that is just not debatable.


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