Credit: Dean Gorissen
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The term "greenie" is a loaded one. More often than not it conjures thoughts of radical, dreadlocked, cheeseclothed, dope-smoking activists chained to logging trucks or trees.
But in the storm of public awareness swept up by Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, the Stern Report and the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings, green has emerged with a sleek new image.
So what, exactly, does it mean to be green?
"There's been a real muddying of the waters in terms of what's an environmental issue, what's an environmentalist, what's a greenie," says Stewart Lockie, an environmental sociologist at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton.
"I think we've moved a long way from the fairly clear and singular definition of an environmentalist that we might have had in the 1970s and 80s."
Indeed, the literature on the topic reads a bit like a Dulux brochure. There are deep greens, green-greens, brown-greens, white-greens, blue-greens, greying greens and green-collar workers.
There are green yuppies, green families, green suits, green consumers, green citizens and watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside).
Jan Pakulski, a sociologist at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, describes three different hues of green:
- Green-greens are most concerned about the despoiling impact of humans on the environment, so focus on issues like wildlife destruction and logging.
- Brown-greens are more worried about threats to their health and lifestyle posed by environmental degradation, so follow issues like pollution and water quality.
- White-greens, named for the lab coats of scientists, are most concerned about cloning and genetic engineering and the risks involved in 'interfering with nature'.
In 2004, Pakulski and colleague Bruce Tranter, also at the University of Tasmania, outlined the demographic profiles of these different types of greens.
The green-green group was smaller, better educated, younger, more secular, more urban and left-of-centre compared with the dominant brown-green group.
The smallest group, the white-greens, tended to be older, more politically conservative and more likely to have mainstream religious beliefs than their green and brown counterparts.
Since then, however, a new set of issues has been making people hot under the collar.
Pakulski calls climate change issues blue-green for "blue sky, fewer greenhouse gases". While he hasn't done the research yet, he does make some predictions.
"I think educated people will respond to blue-green issues more than less educated people because there are so many technicalities in the debate. Secondly, younger generations will respond to it because the most apocalyptic effects will be felt about 30 years from now."