Red State, Blue State – Green State?

Green states don't need to fall in the current political divideThe color-coded red and blue United States map has become a familiar image in the past few years with the “code” dividing the country along political partisan lines of “liberal” vs. “conservative”.

Oversimplified at best, a new color joins the fray and that color is, of course, green.

It’s reported that a recent study from Environment America (which is, for the purpose of full disclosure, headquartered in the green [and blue] state of Massachusetts) shows a growing “green divide” overlaying the familiar red and blue.

States along the northeastern seaboard (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania and Vermont) and west coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) are shown as developing comprehensive environmental strategies in the areas of renewable energy, utility and appliance energy efficiency, building codes for energy efficiency, and “clean car” programs, while states in the mid-west and south lag behind.

What jumps out at me, and probably to you too, is the the “green” states are also, for the most part, the blue states.

This may make a little sense. Leaving to other bloggers all the “values” and “cultural” issues that many love to hurl back and forth at each other across these dividing lines, Democratic political theory is, as I understand and oversimplify it, more friendly to using legislation as a tool for addressing social ills.

What concerns me is the ease with which such a report can be used as a means of further polarization, even if that clearly is not the intent. As valuable as this study my be, it doesn’t, in my opinion, tell the whole story.   

Red, Blue, and Green – Can’t We All Just Get Along?

And the answer, at least in terms of addressing pressing environmental issues, may actually be “yes”. While the northeast and west coast may be the leaders, they are not the only states taking decisive action with these issues. Yesterday in Milwaukee governors from Midwestern states signed a climate change accord, helping to skew the green divide from the typically partisan political lines. And this is but one example one example.

With so much apparent division and rancorous “discussion” between political factions, there is also progress in realizing the need for alliance regarding  issues of sustainability, “eco” focused economics, and environmental stewardship.

This growing awareness is one of business as part of the solution and not the problem, bringing with it more opportunity, and thus profit, in pursuit of a sustainable economy.  

In large part business is out ahead of government in forging a new way of adapting to these challenges and opportunities, but business looks to government to set a coherent and consistent framework of policy and legislation in which they can effectively operate and innovate.

There will always be those that, for instance, claim global warming is a communist liberal plot to… well, I’m not sure what exactly, it gets a little incoherent from there. But this sort of divisive, simple-minded rhetoric has little place in an honest national discussion on where we go from here to insure a sustainable future.

Green shouldn’t be another dividing line, but a place where we can all meet despite our differences.

After all, for a full color spectrum, you need red, blue, and green.

Tom Schueneman writes on environmental issues at and He also publishes the,, and




Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

One response

  1. It’s possible that this study is more a reflection of red vs. blue state’s attitudes about government than being green. It may be a slight oversimplification, but blue states tend to prefer government regulation as a means for action, while red states prefer to leave it to individuals and companies. In that light, it would make sense that there would be more green laws in blue states.
    But more laws does not necessarily mean more green. Look at renewable energy, for example. Iowa is the leading producer of biofuels and Texas has the most installed megawatts of wind power.
    I think red and blue are both green…they just have different ways of getting there.

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