By Keith Kloor | May 8, 2012 12:42 pm

Some of you may be familiar with Portlandia. If not, here’s how the Oregonian describes the satirical IFC show:

It’s a comic portrayal showing a town populated by compulsively organic foodies who interrogate their restaurant server on every detail of the chicken they’re about to order; aggressive bicycle commuters; humorless proprietors of feminist bookstores; and self-righteous animal activists.

One hilarious scene comes at the beginning of season one:

It’s basically a sketch show, a send-up of the (stereotypical) unconventional residents of Portland, Oregon, who have come to reflect the city’s culture. With a little tweaking, it could just as easily be set in Berkley, California or Boulder, Colorado. As one web reviewer writes of Portlandia:

You have met some of the characters before…self involved do-gooders, aged hippies, counter culture losers, the politically correct, protect the dogs but forget the people, people variously stuck in the 70s,80s and 90s all offbeat and most amusing.

If someone were to create a spoof of today’s green culture, the self-consciously hip, do-gooder types who aim to save “mother earth” for future generations (rather than, say, the billions of people already in dire need of a helping hand), it would be called Greenlandia.

The world of Greenlandia also has many colorful, similarly zealous characters, such as No Impact Man and Julia Butterfly Hill. Others are celebrities who have greened their lifestyles on behalf of the planet. Today, green culture in America is a bit schizophrenic, embracing politically correct consumerism but also admiring righteous self-deprivation.

A big problem for the U.S. green movement is that its culture is easily parodied. For example, watch this devastating South Park episode titled, “Smug Alert.” Being associated with the green movement is now seen as problematic for some, like this person who writes at Grist:

I believe in climate change. I ride my bike everywhere, I work at a solar company, I buy organic and local when I can. I am young, liberal, and idealistic. But I’m not an environmentalist.

In Europe, Environmentalism is a political force to contend with. In the United States, it is mocked and marginalized.

There might be a lesson for greens to take from Portlandia. One blog, noting the self-serious culture Portlandia riotously depicts, muses:

What’s interesting about this show is that it might slowly kill off some of the stories that coastal liberals live by (e.g. being ultra-attentitive to our food supply chain, radical political correctness, the gap between liberal attitudes and behaviors, etc.).  It makes a lot of those stories seem ridiculous, fringe and downright silly.

A spinoff called Greenlandia could do the same for greens and the stories they live by.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: environmentalism

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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