7.26.2007

Monbiot: Ethical Consumption is a new status symbol

George Monbiot, excerpted:

Last week the Telegraph told its readers not to abandon the fight to save the planet. "There is still hope, and the middle classes, with their composters and eco-gadgets, will be leading the way." It made some helpful suggestions, such as a "hydrogen-powered model racing car", which, for £74.99, comes with a solar panel, an electrolyser and a fuel cell. God knows what rare metals and energy-intensive processes were used to manufacture it. In the name of environmental consciousness, we have simply created new opportunities for surplus capital.

Ethical shopping is in danger of becoming another signifier of social status. I have met people who have bought solar panels and wind turbines before they have insulated their lofts, partly because they love gadgets but partly, I suspect, because everyone can then see how conscientious and how rich they are. We are often told that buying such products encourages us to think more widely about environmental challenges, but it is just as likely to be depoliticising. Green consumerism is another form of atomisation - a substitute for collective action. No political challenge can be met by shopping.

The middle classes rebrand their lives, congratulate themselves on going green, and carry on buying and flying as much as before. It is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously buys green products and its carbon emissions continue to soar.

1 comment:

Jake said...

Wow. Thanks for posting this. "Atomisation" is exactly right. There's so much talk about "the power of one" and taking individual responsibilty to resolve our environmental woes. But it's as if the only kind of individual action we're capable of is altering our purchasing behavior, resulting in so-called solutions like ethanol and an avalanche of "green" products that are only marginally less harmful.

And the marketing of this "consciencious consumerism" has just barely begun.