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I came across this clip on YouTube the other day, a satirical criticism of consumerist solutions to the environmental crisis, released by the [url=]International Forum on Globalization.[/url]


With the world nearing catastrophic ecological breakdown from climate change, our politicians are making the wrong moves. As for corporations--they're saying go shopping to save the planet!!! Let's separate the real solutions from false ones.

[ 24 August 2007: Message edited by: M.Gregus ]

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

That is great! Thanks for posting that.


It really captured what's wrong with buying our way out of the problem for me. I figured this was a good place to post it. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]


I guess this is what's called 'greenwashing'--presenting a facade of environmentalism without doing anything of real significance. It was also very telling how this parody portrayed an upper-class sense of entitlement and a contempt for people who the video calls 'natives' that live on subsistence farming.
If we are going to be serious about environmental protection and stopping species extinction there will have to be big changes to economic systems and affluent people's habits. Maybe it's too late and there's no political will to do anything serious about it.
It might help to abolish air travel and replace it with sailing ships for sea travel. Land based travel could be done with horse and wagons, muscle-powered cycles, or vehicles powered by wind turbines and solar panels, if possible.
We can be certain that if we want to have a good future for the other animals and future human generations, we are going to have to change the ways we do almost everything.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture


I guess this is what's called 'greenwashing'

I think it goes a little further than a satirical look at greenwashing. I think it encompasses the idea, expressed by many including Canda's Green Party, that we can solve our problems by switching all our consumption to green widgets rather than acknowledging that consumption for consumptions sake is a huge part of the problem.


This is an issue ripe for satire with a message. But I don't think the actress gets the irony across. Good satire is hard. The video just sounds sarcastic and kinda preachy.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

[url=]Better Things for a Better World: The Guardianecostore[/url]


Browse our fabulous collection of products specially selected to promote ideas for a better world. Whether you are looking for stylish clothing, energy-saving gadgets, fantastic homewares, organic cosmetics or fairly traded gifts we're sure you'll find something to inspire.

Want to go Green? Buy more Things!

rural - Francesca rural - Francesca's picture

I can't get the video to run but I found it on Youtube

[url=]Greensumption [/url]

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

Well first off I do have a problem with the whole, 'the problem will be solved by buying' 'green' things as the solution I know it's not , but I don't see the booming of 'green' consumer solutions as being a totally bad thing.

I have been working on what I'll just call 'sustainability' issues for almost 15 years now so I'm very aware of trends have been evolving. Most of the earlier types of work has been largely about 'education' with a whole bunch of time being put towards trying to get people to the point where they even recognize that there even is a big problem and that environmental issues weren't just about 'polluting' things. For the average person it was like knocking your head against the wall.

I've seen for all intents and purposes the overall consciousness of the average person change and this 'consumer green' trend I think reflects that. This in my mind is a good least there is now a broader recognition that their is a problem and that things have to change.

For those that recognize and have done for a time, that the solutions aren't just about changing your toilet paper to a green alternative but about less consumerism etc etc the conversation have become can move on from the convincing stage to conversations exactly like is happening here. Well is this 'really' the solution or is there more...
In counter to this consumeristic trend there has also been a growing trend towards 'simplification' and I've seen more talk about 'lifestyle', 'materialism', 'consumerism' in relation to ecological issues over the past few years that I have EVER seen before and in places I never expected to see this discourse even five years ago.
Now though it is ironic to see an article about consumerism and ecological stuff in places like women's magazines, 'home porn' magazines and various other magazines that seem to have more ads then content they have been popping up.

Five years ago I had conversations with groups of people about 'food' issues...the problems with the industrial food systems, oil, GMO seeds.. organic farming and local food systems and though there was some interest they pretty much forgot about the day after the presentation. Today those very same people, who I'd pretty much given up on...are studying 'food' in depth...finding and reading books like the 100 mile diet and are actually out looking in the grocery stores to try to figure out where their food comes from.

I'll use my mom as an example here, she's average middle class has a general social awareness, knows the environment has a problem and just the other week she calls me to tell me about this really interesting book she got...100 mile...and starts telling me about everything in it. She then goes on to talk about terminator seeds, Canada's government policy, the problems with industrial farming, it's connections to oil and how much problems she had figuring out from the labels where her food was coming from. She babbled on about seed saving, the problems with corporate control of seeds in places like India...and potentially how this is going to affect us here.

I honestly had to laugh because these were things I had been talking about for YEARS and I kept having to stop here from going into in depth explanations (long distance) and say...yes I know about that...and this. She starts sending me all these links to websites she's reading...and yes many are 'green' consumer sites but I see it as a big step in the right direction. I can now talk to her on a totally different level.
She's not the only one that I've had a similar experience with.

I asked her, so what changed...why this supposedly sudden real interest in all this stuff and she couldn't answer...she said I just happened. I can't help but think that it had something to do with the fact that more and more people are being surrounded by 'green' and that 'green' at least in it's simplest, superficial and yes 'consumer' sense has hit the mainstream.

Where I think we need to go from here, is not rail against this trend too much, because in one sense it is positive, it means that at least people are thinking about it more then just as theory but connecting it with real, everyday 'stuff.'
The conversation just has to change. I hate greenwashing with a passion, but also realize that at least we're at a point where we can get down and dirty and talk about the whole 'green' thing in broader terms with more people.

I honestly much prefer having an argument about whether something is really 'green' or 'green' enough rather then still being stuck at having a one side argument about whether we should actually go 'green' in the first place.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I foolishly spent $12 to go to the Green Living Show in Vancouver on the weekend.

[url=]Green Living Show[/url]

It was a waste of money. The primary message was that if you just buy more of the right stuff the environment will be saved. And if you can't buy the right stuff then just pay an indulgence (carbon offset) and you can pollute without guilt.

There were a handful of real "green" businesses and the rest were mostly hair products and clothes manufacturers. My favourite was the very large displays by Walmart and Home Depot. Now I know if I want to save the planet I should shop at Walmart

[img]mad.gif" border="0[/img] [img]mad.gif" border="0[/img]

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture


The market is presented as the saviour of the environment. Environmental concern is commodified and transformed into ideological support for capitalism.

Instead of raising awareness of the causes of the ecological crisis, green consumerism mystifies them. The solution is presented as an individual act rather than as the collective action of individuals struggling for social change.

I would not dispute anything said here but I would reduce the last sentence to read, simply: The solution is presented as an individual act of more shopping (because by now we know our only is hope to shop our way out).

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Does that mean you discount the possibility of "collective action of individuals struggling for social change"?


I think one has to take a two pronged aproach to this problem.

We are not just consumers of goods, we are also the producers of all these goods. Reduce your shopping in lockstep with the amount you produce.
Otherwise you just shift the burden to someone else. IMO.


[url=] GREEN: The convenient untruth[/url]


A recent study by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, which manages the EcoLogo program launched by Ottawa in 1988 to certify green products, found that 99 per cent of 1,018 common consumer products were guilty of so-called "greenwashing."

The products ranged from toothpaste to caulking to shampoo to printers.

Michael Hardner

With all respect to Andrew Watson, because I know what he's getting at, shopping is THE biggest collective, i.e. group activity that happens in North America.

Whether we shop alone, or with others, consuming is something that we do as a people, and the results are what we deal with as a people every day.

The act of purchasing is so perfectly modeled on a natural human activity - exchange for fair value - that it is almost impossible to contend with.

Protesting or demanding political action is a much more complicated social process.

If consumerism is to be replaced with something new, then you have to come up with something that replaces the purchase as the basis for social exchange, which is what we have today.

It's kind of a tall order, but the rewards would be great.

My take on it is that consumerism itself, the purchase of goods isn't bad. The problem is that the act of purchasing causes unlisted effects in another location. When I buy a plastic toy in Toronto, there is an environmental cost where the toy was created that is not adequately covered by the exchange between the shopkeeper and me.

And part of the problem with assigning these costs is that it's a very complicated process to attribute the costs at source to the end purchaser.

One possibility to deal with this would be to make all such purchases traceable from origin to final destination. That would make it impossible to bury the hidden costs, and would make a true economic analysis possible.

Just a thought...

[ 19 April 2008: Message edited by: Michael Hardner ]

[ 19 April 2008: Message edited by: Michael Hardner ]



Originally posted by Michael Hardner:
[b]shopping is THE biggest collective, i.e. group activity that happens in North America.

True, and very sad. That is what life in North American has become: Work. Shop. Work. Shop. Human lives impoverished and reduced to little else. They keep the engines of profit running.

Michael Hardner

It's important to remember, though, that buying and selling had to be INVENTED, out of a need to provide for material needs.

Unfortunately, that invention has outlived its usefulness. Our social needs are now far lacking, and we need some kind of social equivalent of the purchase.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Green Washing Living Show comes to Toronto


Organizers of this weekend's Green Living Show say they rejected 100 would-be exhibitors because their goods were not terribly environmental.

Sensing a lucrative green wave, some entrepreneurs are pushing products that make promises they cannot keep, spinning them as "natural" or "earth friendly," terms that are meaningless.

"We often get people trying to sell you a product that is not good, by claiming it is green," says Lee Schnaiberg, an environmental consultant working for the show. "It is disheartening. But it is not always out of malice. A lot of people want to do good, but don't necessarily know what that means, unfortunately."

Schnaiberg vets many of the products but, for tougher decisions, he talks to the show's "green screening committee," a group of environmentalists and consultants. While 100 promoters were turned down, 430 exhibitors will be at the Direct Energy Centre in Exhibition Place, selling items like stainless steel drinking bottles, organic baby clothes, hybrid cars and electric gizmos that increase bicycle speed. The show runs from today through Sunday. - [url=]Star[/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture
writer writer's picture

Turn fresh water into fuel - isn't that the tar sands?



Originally posted by M. Spector:
A case in point

Only makes sense to me. Due to past inaction the world is going to warm this century no matter what. Both GM and selective breeding for dealing with those conditions is necessary. Governments should have invested heavily towards developing those crops but haven't.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[QB]There is a school of capitalist thought that sees global warming not as a problem, but as an investment opportunity. This is the basis for much of the greenwashing we see today. If capitalists aren’t exactly selling us the rope with which we will hang them, they are busy finding new ways to make a profit by selling us commodities to cope with the environmental mess that they have created for us.

That's nothing. Why sell products that can resist climate change when you can [url=]sell climate change itself?[/url]


This past spring, David Brand went on a property-scouting trip to Malaysian Borneo. Deep in the rain forest, Brand — founder and director of a forestry investment business — met locals who just couldn't grasp what this Westerner was doing there. They were mystified he did not want to build an illegal logging mill. One of them put his arm around Brand's shoulder. "No one can see what we do here, my friend," he said. "We can cut it all down for you."

Brand sighed. He wasn't there to clear-cut the rain forest. In fact, soon after scoping out that land, he hopped on a plane to London where, in a matter of weeks, he raised $200 million to buy tracts of forest like the one in Borneo — and he's not going to raze those, either. They're investments. The return will come from deals with companies shopping for pollution offsets or with NGOs and governments that will pay to protect the planet's wild places — not because they're pretty, but because they perform a service.

Essentially, he is making sure capitalists will pollute at least [i]this[/i] much. And getting paid for the privilege.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The Guardian has [url=]a series of articles on Greenwash[/url]. They now have a weekly column on the subject, and have assigned Fred Pearce to write it. This one's going into my bookmarks.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

There is a problem with this thread, which occurred during the Great Babble Apocalypse of 2008 (also known as the conversion to Drupal software) when this thread was reformatted in the new software. Specifically, posts 1 through 29 have been repeated again as posts 30 through 58. Thus everything before post #59 appears twice.


[url= lifestyle choices won't solve the climate problem[/url]

Gar Lipow wrote:

If you were supporting the anti-slavery movement in the 19th century, where would your money have been better spent — supporting the communes that ran on the principles of personal virtue, or backing Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass? If you wanted to go beyond donations to personal action, which example would have been better to follow? I would have to go with Tubman and Douglass.

Setting an example by doing some simple, logical things to reduce an individual environmental footprint is wonderful. But ultimately, we will not make up, through private spending or lifestyle changes, for the fact that we currently don’t invest enough in public goods. Nor will we privately make up for the fact that much of our public spending is directed to the wrong public goods.

Contrary to the famous Dick Cheney quote, energy efficiency is not a matter of personal virtue. The answer to collective political failure is political action.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url= to Stop the Greenwashing[/url] [sorry, dead link]
by Dr. Glen Barry, President and Founder of Ecological Internet, a conservation biologist and political ecologist, a writer of essays and blogs, and a computer specialist and technology researcher.

Many mainstream (and some "radical") environmentalists, most businesses and essentially all governments are greenwashing -- misleading the public regarding the environmental benefits of their practices, policies and products. Certified [url=]FSC[/url] logging destroys ancient forests, climate and water. Coal is unlikely to ever be clean as existing plants emit into the atmosphere, and sequestration is unproven. Biofuels hurt the environment, geo-engineering will destroy remaining natural processes, and buying more stuff is rarely good for the environment.

It is time to stop the greenwashing. After two decades of successfully raising awareness regarding climate change, forest protection and other challenges to global ecological sustainability; increasingly my time is spent reacting to dangerous, insufficient responses that fail to address root causes of ecological decline, provide a false sense of action, and frequently consolidate and do more environmental harm.

Many "greenwash" to make money, some to be perceived as effective advocates, while others believe incremental progress without changing the system is the best that can be done. Yet all are delaying policies necessary simply to survive. The greatest obstacle to identifying, refining, espousing and implementing policies required to maintain a habitable Earth may come from "environmentalists" proposing inadequate half-measures that delay and undermine the rigorous work that must be done to bring humanity back into nature's fold.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

One of many examples of the ineffectiveness of "green consumerism" to protect the world's ecosystems:

Madagascar shelters 12 percent of all living primate species, 36 percent of all primate families, and 33 species of lemur that exist virtually nowhere else, making it possibly the world’s single most important area for conservation of these animals.

And yet because the trees are consumed domestically, [for fuel] wealthy foreign consumers looking to “buy green” have no opportunity to influence the logging of these priceless forest habitats.

- Scientific American

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

George Monbiot wrote:

Green consumerism is becoming a pox on the planet. If it merely swapped the damaging goods we buy for less damaging ones, I would champion it. But two parallel markets are developing: one for unethical products and one for ethical products, and the expansion of the second does little to hinder the growth of the first.

I am now drowning in a tide of ecojunk. Over the past six months, our coatpegs have become clogged with organic cotton bags, which - filled with packets of ginseng tea and jojoba oil bath salts - are now the obligatory gift at every environmental event. I have several lifetimes’ supply of ballpoint pens made with recycled paper and about half a dozen miniature solar chargers for gadgets I don’t possess.

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 Ј74.99, 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 mini-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 ever before. It is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously buys green products, and its carbon emissions continue to soar.


M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Green consumerism, which is largely a cynical attempt to maintain profit margins, does not challenge capital's ecocidal accumulation, but actually facilitates it by opening a new market.

All products, no matter how "green", cause some pollution, use some resources and energy, and cause some ecological disturbance. This would not matter in a society in which production was rationally planned, but in an exponentially expanding economy, production, however "green", would eventually destroy the Earth's environment. Ozone-friendly aerosols, for example, still use other harmful chemicals; create pollution in their manufacture, use and disposal; and use large amounts of resources and energy.

Of course, up to now, the green pretensions of most companies have been exposed largely as presenting an acceptably green image, with little or no substance. The market is presented as the saviour of the environment. Environmental concern is commodified and transformed into ideological support for capitalism.

Instead of raising awareness of the causes of the ecological crisis, green consumerism mystifies them. The solution is presented as an individual act rather than as the collective action of individuals struggling for social change. The corporations laugh all the way to the bank.

[url=]Andrew Watson[/url] [sorry, dead link]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture


The main "solutions" being offered by the capitalist class, its politicians and the corporate-dominated mass media -- and endorsed by some key peak environmental organisations -- are consciously designed to shift the responsibility for, and the major costs of, addressing global warming away from the most polluting corporations and to preserve the basic structure and mechanisms of Western capitalist economies. They are also designed to delay the necessary political, economic and social changes for as long as possible, and to keep them to the minimum that are compatible (in their assessment) with both the survival of capitalist society and ameliorating the worst of climate change.

This is why major-party politicians and the corporate media -- and again unfortunately some peak environment groups – do not place serious demands on big business, but endorse -- even celebrate -- big business’ preferred measures of emissions trading, "green" taxes, carbon offsetting projects in the Third World and capitalism-friendly publicly subsidised techno-fixes such as so-called clean coal and agro-fuels.

These false "solutions" are not only inadequate, they are counterproductive.

From a [url= of a talk[/url] given by Terry Townsend to the Climate Change | Social Change Conference held in Sydney from April 11 to 13.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I agree - our individual green acts can not possibly overcome the dire environmental and climate consequences of the tar sands in Alberta.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

M. Spector wrote:
There is a problem with this thread, which occurred during the Great Babble Apocalypse of 2008 (also known as the conversion to Drupal software) when this thread was reformatted in the new software. Specifically, posts 1 through 29 have been repeated again as posts 30 through 58. Thus everything before post #59 appears twice.

Fixed! Although I was tempted to leave my posts in there four times, to make sure they got the audience they deserved.


And M. Spector re-writing history (post #7). Sure, he was just pointing to a now-dead link - but what else did he change? Hmmm? Huhhhh?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

There is a school of capitalist thought that sees global warming not as a problem, but as an investment opportunity. This is the basis for much of the greenwashing we see today. If capitalists aren’t exactly selling us the rope with which we will hang them, they are busy finding new ways to make a profit by selling us commodities to cope with the environmental mess that they have created for us.

A case in point:

A handful of the world’s largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming, according to a report being released today.

Three companies — BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis — have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report by the [url=]Ottawa... ETC Group[/url], an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers.

[url='s gold in them thar ills[/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture


First the biotech industry promised that its genetically engineered seeds would clean up the environment. Then they told us biotech crops would feed the world. Neither came to pass. Soon we’ll hear that genetically engineered climate-hardy seeds are the essential adaptation strategy for crops to withstand drought, heat, cold, saline soils and more.

After failing to convince an unwilling public to accept genetically engineered foods, biotech companies see a silver lining in climate change. They are now asserting that farmers cannot win the war against climate change without genetic engineering. According to a new report from ETC Group, the world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto, BASF, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, and Dow – along with biotech partners such as Mendel, Ceres, and Evogene – are stockpiling hundreds of patents and patent applications on crop genes related to environmental stress tolerance at patent offices around the world. They have acquired a total of 55 patent families corresponding to 532 patents and patent applications.


Maysie Maysie's picture

M. Spector M. Spector's picture