Saturday, July 21, 2012

Repackaging Consumerism

Everywhere you go today consumers and businesses are jumping on the bandwagon of the Green Revolution. But rather than exult in what appears to be progress, it would be wiser to mistrust such conspicuous change. Reusable shopping bags bearing store logos are proudly displayed in check out areas as some sort of certificate of virtue for the merchant, not to mention a fresh way to advertise. Fast food restaurants are using less packaging; discount stores are touting their conversion to energy efficient lighting, and curb side recycling programs are becoming the rule. As tempting as it is to applaud these efforts to be environmentally responsible, it's impossible to shake the lurking suspicion that these changes are merely wolves in sheep's clothing: that these demonstrative efforts to become 'green' lack the depth to be more than a passing fad and may be instead a means of simply camouflaging a new type of consumerism. The need for consumers and businesses to do some serious soul searching is so pressing that it's written about daily in the news. Everyone is hoping beyond hope that the economy will spontaneously turn itself around and be like it was. But read a bit further to discover that this pipe dream is not only naive and misguided; it's a product of decades of false representation by those who were meant to protect our interests. They lied to everyone. And even today, their underhanded tactics can be seen at work. Environmentally sensitive consumers are lulled to sleep and shrewdly set back on course by marketers who propose satisfying the same urge to consume by substituting a 'green' product. Like fat free cookies and calorie free potato chips, we`ve entered the age of clear conscience consumption convinced that we are accomplishing the necessary change for our planet, and thrilled that it been thus far relatively painless, even chic. It's clear that the majority of American businesses would not consider taking a stand for the environment without a strong financial incentive to pad their bottom line. Perhaps that's just the fundamental nature of business as we know it, a legitimate need for growth and competitiveness. But there has been mention recently of alternative models of economics and it would seems that a growing number of reputable minds believe that our present crisis is nothing more than the inevitable outcome of a growth based economy. While ideas about steady state economies can seem radical, being dismissed by the economically powerful as just that, isn't it possible that these ideas of sustainability are not reckless extremism at all, but innovative, apropos and the only real hope for a future? In response to the crisis upon us, the mainline talkers are simply saying more (trillions more) of the same. And while it may be possible for some to find enough comfort in that, it doesn't stop the swirl of questions that remain unanswered by these mainline thinkers. Questions like, how is perpetual growth possible long term when it's based on non-renewable resources? An honest answer would include an explanation of the concept of 'planned obsolescence', the secret MO of the manufacturing and technology industries. But even that ethically shady concept only addresses the need for adequate demand. So, they say renewable energies will 'naturally' replace non-renewable ones when the price of the former begins to equal that of the latter. But that doesn't explain why the American car manufacturers kept pushing gas-guzzling vehicles with aggressive marketing when they had the wherewithal all along to begin to produce vehicles that were less dependent on petroleum energy. Now, when the economic climate begins to 'naturally' demand that very change, they reveal to the world just how vulnerable and innovation phobic they really are, threatening to go belly up and take the rest of us with them. And, what about the increasing indebtedness of the consumer? Surely it can be agreed that continuing to plunge an entire generation of consumers into lifelong debt, or servitude to the financial sector, is not in the best interest of the consumers themselves! In our present system, consumers are reduced to rodents furiously running on an exercise wheel. No one's getting anywhere, no real material advancement, be it a salary increase that has not already been promised to a creditor or the purchasing of a product that doesn't have a programmed date of obsolescence. And few are those that stop to ask the real questions of, "why do I need a new one, " or "why is this one no longer desirable?" In light of all this, what is completely certain is that it is going to take more than surface changes to reverse the slide that has already begun. And the changes that must take place should happen fast. It's going to get radical one way or another. We have a choice: either we change our core behaviors and attitudes or our world will be irrevocably damaged. Buying a new shopping tote or wearing a cute organic tee, while possibly a baby step in the right direction, just isn't going to be enough. Source -

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