The distant origins of the color green as a symbol of the environment


In 1972, in Canada, one of the first protest movements for the protection of the planet chose to be called “green peace», Greenpeace. Since then, there are around a hundred ecological parties using this color in the world. “Green is no longer just a color, it’s a political program, a way of life“, writing James Fox, art historian and author of the book The world according to colors.

For several decades, the green color of a poster or a label on a product instantly evokes a form of respect for the environment. For the BBC, the art historian dissects the origins of this association of green with environmentalist combat which has become obvious to us.

Of all civilizations

James Fox believes that the beginnings of this association of ideas date back to a few thousand years ago. First, our connection to the color green, as a species, would be quite exceptional. Unlike many mammals, we are able to perceive the color green and differentiate it from red. “Our eyes may have even evolved so that we can perceive the chlorophyll in plants ”, he explains, to make it easier for us to differentiate leaves from fruits.

The link between the color green and nature is present in the oldest civilizations. From archaeologists have discovered in the Near East, traces of many green stones dating from 10,000 years ago. They believe that they were used by peasants as amulets to encourage soil fertility. In ancient Egypt, Osiris, king and inventor of agriculture, is often represented by the color green.

In Islamic cultures, a millennium before the Green Party, green is very evocative. In the Qur’an, humans are described as “temporary stewards of the ecosystem, explains James Fox, they are invited not to disturb the delicate balance of creation by excessive consumption or destruction. ” The green color is very present to evoke the abundant nature and life. It would also be the favorite color of the Prophet Muhammad.

According to James Fox, it is ultimately our most modern societies that have been slow to realize the importance of this color. Since the 1980s, a few artists have contributed to this achievement. Joseph Beuys, one of the founders of the German Green Party, planted more than 7,000 oak trees in the city of Kassel to support the creation of the party. The Briton, David Nash has been making sculptures made of plants for forty years as a sign “of ecological optimism “ in the face of the climate emergency. At the end of the 1990s, the artist Ólafur Elíasson has spread hundreds of liters of non-toxic green dye in rivers around the world to symbolize the environmental issue, he called his work “Green River».


Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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