Mark 2009 as the year that Black and Hip Hop magazines, I mean “Urban” magazines finally decided to catch up with the rest of the world and start devoting some considerable ink to the environment. Â The vast majority of special “Green” April issues have been, we’ll say, sub-optimal, but no need to poke at easy targets. After all, all these mags are struggling right now, so in that they spent ink on anything environment-related warrants at least an “E” for effort.Â That said, if mags are concerned about bottom-lines right now, understandably, then for many it would have been better to not have gone “green” at all, rather than cobble together a few pages of eco-confusion and enviro-fuckery.
Take The Source , a magazine that, like roaches, refuses to die despite wearing out its welcome long ago. They couldn’t have picked better people for their cover: Busta, Bun and ‘Kiss (who obviously wasn’t briefed on the color theme for this issue). Â But looking at the Busta cover, one wouldn’t know if by their “Green Issue” they mean the “Weed Issue” (headline over the masthead is about legazling marijuana), or the “Money Issue” (Busta burns Benjamins; really smart image to run during a recession) or the “Ugly Green Leather Coat and Scarf Worn in the Spring Issue.”
The pages in-between are no clearer. With articles splashed in every shade of green, they run everywhere from an incorrect history of the environmental justice movement that inaccurately credits Benjamin Muhammad Chavis for reports and activism when he’s done zilch in this arena since the 90s, to an ill-suggested article on visiting the “eco-tourist’s paradise” of Ecuador. This trip might’ve made sense a year ago or earlier, but not now — not when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa just did an about-face on his enviro-roots by shutting down the largest environmental justice organization Accion Ecologica, made up of peasant and indigenous Ecuadorians protesting Correa’s allowing of expanding mining operations in the country. By the time Source gets to real enviromental issues, an article on renewable energy sources — solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass power — they drop about 150 words and put up a bunch of really bad Clipart. Still, I shudder to think what a Source “Green Issue” would have looked like under Benzino (probably something about the Boston Celtics, and a 50-page photo-spread-advertisement of the “Made Men” posing in fig leaves, Stan Smith Adidas and various green-diamond chains?”
Complex‘s Green Issue is better, but only in that they acknowledge upfront that “no one has a clue about how to fix this mess.” And so, they settle for flicks of Kim Kardashian making sexy-time with the camera, images of icebergs and flaming suns and wildfires in the back drop (Get it? She’s hot … global warming … nevermind). XXL didn’t bother.Â GIANT too. They have bigger issues. I’ll recuse myself from critiquing Essence (Oh, you didn’t know they had a Green Issue this month? Check pages 126 – 132. They kinda forgot to tease it on the cover) for reasons I won’t go into right now. But they did manage to pick up Kerry Washington, eco-celebrity du jour to guest edit it. Do pick up a copy and let me know what you think. Ebony did only marginally better, burping up a few profile-blurbs on major black players in the environmental movement, and a few pages on “green jobs” (which … I’ll get to that in my next post).
The problem with all of these Green Issues is that just reporting on cool new “green” toys and products, or eco-tourista projects, or doing tiny mini-profiles on activists and leaving it at that, is that readers don’t know enough about the environmental issues at large to care about these cute trinkets and brave figures. What good is bringing up solar power when people in the hood can’t go to Wal-Mart their local hardware store to buy solar panels, much more afford them? What good is bringing up expensive new battery-powered cars, when you haven’t made it clear why they should switch from their cheap gas at the pump? If Green Issues were truthful, they’d have to explain to readers that in order for solar power and electro-owered vehicles to finally come online, gasoline will necessarilly have to rise to upwards of $4 a gallon. That’s not what readers want to read, but that’s reality. And why push for these new energy-efficiency and renewable-energy products if you haven’t explained to readers that our traditional fossil-fuel burning products (petro, coal) are responsible for the greenhouse gases in the air that cause the global warming burning Kim Kardashian’s ass in the photo spread?
People are not going to care if magazines don’t connect the dots. Otherwise, “Green” is just a color — a new marketing scheme used to win over consumers, but with no ecological rhyme or reason behind it. With that in mind, I have to shout out my lady Steely D., who questioned earlier about new technology that suppresses the methane from cow’s asses when they burp and fart (no punchline). Methane is the most dangerous greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and is actually more potent as a pollutant than Co2. (Luv ya, Steely, but methane is not used in photosynthesis.) Co2 is only pumped (so to speak) in the media because there’s larger volumes of it in the air. But methane is deadly, and the millions of cows in farms across the world that are being fed hormones and crap so that we can have fat Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and McDonald’s steak, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches (OK, on that one I confess. Guilty as charged), are literally fartin’ up storms. Enough on that, though.
Be Mockâ€™D is one of PLRâ€™s featured contributors on the environment, politics and how the hood gets mocked by both. Read the rest of his opinions here.