Efficiency products will proliferate, for better or worse.
Recently an acquaintance of mine, who shall remain nameless, gave a diamond engagement ring to his girlfriend. She joyfully accepted the ring. But soon her joy turned to disgust when she learned that her lovely “diamond” actually was a cubic zirconium.
Last I heard, she’d broken off the engagement and was dating her ex-fiancé’s former boss. So it goes.
This incident got me thinking. What the hapless suitor failed to appreciate—aside from the importance of honesty and integrity—is that an engagement ring isn’t just a sparkly crystal clamped onto a piece of metal; it’s an idea. A diamond ring, offered on bended knee, is a gesture, a symbol, and something more. It’s a meme: a cultural archetype that takes on a life of its own, as it’s transmitted from person to person, from generation to generation.
The idea of being “green” also is a meme, and that’s both good news and bad news. It’s good news because memes grow and evolve to suit their survival in human culture. This suggests green values will continue growing as long as they find fertile ground in our culture. Richard Dawkins, who fathered meme theory in 1976, wrote, “Given the right conditions, replicators [including both genes and memes] automatically band together to create systems, or machines, that carry them around and work to favour their continued replication.”1