Monday, April 26, 2010

Precis on "The Coming Resource Wars"

Article by Michael T. Klare 

It seems like we may never be able to give peace a chance.  Just as political correctness has become old hat and tolerance becomes a condition of living in this global village, just as soon as technology has given us the most impressive entertainment ever, it seems we humans are being reduced back to our former primitive state of fighting over food and water.  According to British Defense Secretary John Reid, it's official:  the era of resource wars is upon us.  With global warming, increasing population and consumption up to record levels, the bounty of the earth is becoming scarce and can be likened to the booty of pirates of old.  The article focuses not on the popular conception that the human role in altering the planet's basic climate system is the only problem but that there is a trend to think farther into the social implications the shortage of resources will have in future conflicts.  And as environmental problems persist, natural disasters make very clear the limits in which we are able to aid those in need.  In the face of such calamity, Reid says, we have two choices:  we can rely on our military power to secure a degree of advantage in the global struggle over resources, or we can work towards reducing the risk of CCC, or in other words, Cataclysmic Climate Change.  He believes there are many in the United States who would tout the superiority of the military power but such instruments become ineffectual when an inconclusive war in Iraq or a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina strikes.  In addition, the threat of nuclear power looms on the horizon as countries scramble to claim what resources they can.  This article appeals to everyone and especially world leaders who have the power to direct the power of their countries.  I wholeheartedly agree with Reid that ultimately, "our only hope of a safe and secure future lies in substantially reducing our emissions of greenhouses gases and working with the rest of the world to slow the pace of global climate change.  

Precis by Brett Tapia

What was up with Korten?

By Norman Chernick
When I began watching the Democracy Now video I was excited to see what horrible reality was going to be revealed and instead what we got was a kind of lame Marx "wanna be", David Korten. From his presentation to his ideas I couldn't give him much respect in part because he was not giving it to us.
I mention his presentation because it really put me off especially in comparison to Amy Goodman and Barak Obama who came off as serious and sincere, while Korten overly smiley, shifty, and nervous. He coughed at really important parts of his interview which gave me the impression that he was 'freaking out' inside his head or avoiding something. However, I don't want to dwell on this, what he says is what really confused me to why Dale had us watch this.

Firstly he wants us to do away with Wall street and replace it with main st. What does that even mean? What is Main street and how is that not directly imbedded in wall street? Wall street for anybody who doesn't know is the financial sector of our economy any country with banks has to have a financial sector so that the banks can do things with the money we store in them so they can invest it back in the economy. I don't see any reality in getting rid of 'Wall St.'
I see a reality in tuff regulations on it, which is what caused all of the phantom profit.

Korten reels through hot terms like a politician: military industrial complex, "bad for the family", main st., wall st. I felt like my intelligence was compromised as if he was propagandizing even though I agree with a lot of what he said.
"People have 10 times more conversations a day who shop at farmers markets."
What a terrible statistic to throw out there its just so questionable and probably based mostly in that people who shop at farmers markets probably have more leisure time and don't watch as much TV.
another statement he made was that the world cheered when wall street fell. I don't think the people that lost their jobs all over the world cheered, Its not like it affected wall streets power it just affected all the people it supports' power.
He also proposed to somehow end the existence of suburbs because they are bad for families. Does he not realize that people are autonomous and that we live in a democracy, because I certainly don't when I rant against the suburbs.

He also didn't really discuss the environment instead I now know he used to live on 14th st. Union Sq. and shop at farmers markets.

Whenever the reporters asked him questions about possible faults in his ideas he just answered with an attack on Wall st. it was actually strange how he maneuvered those answers like a politician would.

I expect a lot from intellectuals because they spend their time thinking and coming up with new ideas, he should be a little more reasonable, sensible, and insightful. It almost seems as if he hasn't thought his ideas through enough, they come off as based in emotion and not in moving ideas around and finding fault in ones ideas and re-structuring them. Yet I think he has thought his ideas through and they are based in research and thought but he doesn't present them in that way. His ideas were not complex enough for me to take it as a hypothetical theory attempt at solving problems instead it was his self absorption overflowing because he is stating this radical program.

That was my initial response to watching this interview. I watched the interview again and I realize how much of what he says I agree with, but I have just heard it so much that him saying it seems 'lame'. What did I learn from this interview? Nothing really everything is pretty standard left wing oratory and I think that is was put me off so much, why am I watching this?
The reason I watch politicians speak is to see which of my views they agree with its exciting to see them express them or not. However, with this guy he just says what my basic values are and then adds some crazy idea about destroying the financial sector and replacing it with family banks that will trade with Japan. This guy is not going to implement this, he is not giving me any new ideas to push or to question my own, it sounds like fox news except the opposite side of the poll. (is that it?....)


"The Long Emergency" Precis

In “The Long Emergency”, James Howard Kunstler envisions a near-future collapse of American life as we currently know it. The piece almost reads like the setup to a science fiction novel. This isn’t surprising considering the bulk of Kunstler’s writing career has consisted of fiction writing, and his most recent offerings have been set in a post-oil world such as the one described in “The Long Emergency”. However, Kunstler is not alone in his visions. If you research the subject of peak-oil, you’ll come across many stories similar to Kunstler’s. You’ll also come across many peak-oil charts, statistics, and official studies/reports, including the Hirsch Report (officially titled Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management), a 2005 study conducted for the US Department of Energy. The results of the report put forth a very similar scenario to Kunstler’s, albeit a lot less stylized.

After reading “The Long Emergency”, it is apparent that Kunstler seems to have a burning dislike for the American lifestyle that was once called The American Dream. He sprinkles some heavy doses of sarcasm throughout the piece, and it is no surprise that he has accumulated many opponents throughout his recent career. In “Short Solutions to the Long Emergency”, Charles Bensinger, co-founder of Renewable Energy Partners of New Mexico, argues that Kunstler has “failed to do his homework regarding the potential of renewable energy, biofuels, energy
efficiency and smart-growth policies to eliminate our need for fossil
fuels over the next three decades”. You can read the entire piece here: http://www.greeninstitute.net/node/430.

Also, you can check out this Kunstler-hating blog: http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/, which is dedicated to “Debunking peak oil hype with facts and figures, and exposing the agendas behind peak oil”. It’s quite entertaining, seeing as many of their arguments consist of bashing Kunstler’s ability to accurately predict the future.

Only time will tell how accurate Kunstler’s predictions actually are. One thing is for sure: peak-oil is not your typical the-apocolypse-is-coming-soon-and-we're-all-going-to-die-conspiracy theory type of deal. If you want the hard, unbiased facts, then look no further. I think we all owe it to ourselves to expand our knowledge about this subject. Personally, Kunstler rubs me the wrong way for some reason, but I have to admit, there seems to be fewer and fewer ways around at least some kind of version of the “The Long Emergency”.

- Jon Thomas

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Economic Frustration: A response to

David Korten’s “Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth”

In David Korten’s interview with Democracy Now! he argues that if we continue down our path of consumption, economic instability, and urban sprawl we will lose our sense of community, relationships, and health. Not only will we be losing our biosphere, we will lose our humanity.

Right away in the interview Korten has given us the first step to recovery, acceptance. He is asking the government to address that the system has failed, and it is time to try something new. He goes on to say that not only has this system failed to give us financial stability, it has also negatively affected our environment and social communities, by destroying our ecosystems and keeping the bottom end communities deprived.

Throughout the interview Korten suggests ways to reform our economic standing, as well as bringing up imperative environmental issues he does not feel are being discussed in congress. He proposes building our economic system to support families, education, small businesses, and sustainability by re-directing the funding coming from the government, as well as transforming Wall Street into Main Street.

I full heartedly agree with what Korten has offered in this interview. He is a brilliant man, writing wonderful books, bringing up critical issues. But when I read this (and many of the other articles throughout the semester) I could not suppress my enormous frustration that I know this, the people reading/watching Democracy Now! know this, and the people he is targeting even know this. So what do we do? I am not sure that what we need to do is convince those in power that there is a problem. They are smart, they must know there is a problem, but what they have to do is give up a lot (lifestyle, money, etc.) in order to fix the problems, and that is the hard part.

Korten is asking his government, colleagues, and country to re-think our society’s way of life, there seems to be a call to action behind his words. Not only does it seem a daunting dream, it seems an almost impossible one. How can we get people mobilized? He is asking us to give up much of what we have, and alter the rest. How do we do that? Statistics have been crammed down peoples’ throats, photographs of landfills bombard the media, wallets are emptying at the pump, and celebrities are inspiring us to eat organically. What else can we do to inspire our government to re-direct the billions of dollars being spent on Industrial Agriculture subsidies, new highways, war, and other harmful endeavors?

Creating a sustainable lifestyle and society may look like we’re moving backwards to many people. We have evolved and created Industrial technologies that provide abundance and convenience, so how do we go back to being without them? It is like giving someone, who has been fishing with their hands a net, and then asking them not to use it. We need to think of it as our society being so evolved we know we could use these Industrial technologies, but shouldn’t.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

So Refreshing!!!



ever since this pepsi campaign hit the television/computer screens of america,
i haven't been able to stop thinking about it. at first i chose to ignore it,
but now i'm going to take a closer look at this ad campaign for my report.
i've always been anti-pepsi, it's all about coke anyways.

p.s.
this is the project i want to pitch to pepsi

REFRESH THIS:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Question for Final

How long should our quotes be? Mine are generally passages that I thought were relevant to the topic...is that ok? Because my final is going to end up being REALLY long if I continue this. (I'm only 5 definitions in and I'm already taking up a page) Also is there any specific formating for the Final?

Are these people crazy? Or not?

I’ll be doing my report on the artists Rachel Dutton and Rob Olds. The only information I can find about them is in the book Conversations Before The End Of Time by Suzi Gablik. Here are some excerpts from the book:

“Rachel Dutton and her husband, Rob Olds, were visionary sculptors until they decided to give up making art a few years ago from a sense of environmental emergency. Dutton’s work, constructed from hay, mud and papier-mâché shaped around an armature, was like a hallucinatory dream-memory of our atavistic link with the animal world, evoking a pretechnological, more spiritual era when humans could merge their consciousness with animals and harmonize with nature. Olds’s works – I recall seeing a couple of homeless men hovering around a garbage can, all made from a lavalike substance that suggested the ruins of Pompeii – were like terrifying holograms of the coming environmental and social anarchy… Homesteading in a remote part of New Mexico, they had slowly altered their physical reality by progressively shedding their dependence on twentieth-century technologies, and devoting themselves instead to a simple, circumscribed life, attending to the daily matters of sustaining a desert existence and enjoying their activity as artists.

“Then came the letter. It stated that they were giving up everything, selling their land and studios, and using whatever money they had for a lengthy series of courses, in order to learn tracking and wilderness survival skills from a man called Tom Brown, Jr., in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey… By the time they had written me, they had already given away or destroyed all their sculptures and drawings, to release the energy bound up in the forms, and had canceled their forthcoming shows…

“When he was a boy, Brown was taught ancient survival practices, like how to make bows, clubs and arrowheads, and how to trap, track and stalk by an old Apache warrior and scout called “Grandfather,” who was born in the 1880s. Brown had started his tracking school in order to instruct people about how to survive without modern technological civilization, because of the vision of its destruction that Grandfather had received during a vision quest some time during the 1920s – much of which has already become reality. Part of Grandfather’s vision was composed of this message: “Earth is dying. The destruction of man is close, so very close, and we must all work to change that part of destruction.” There would be four warnings, or signs, which if heeded would offer humanity a chance to learn the lessons and, by changing its ways, alter its probable future. The first two warnings are famine and a disease born of monkeys, drugs and sex that will destroy mankind from the inside. The third warning is in the form of holes in the sky that cannot be healed. If at this point the decision to change has not been made, all will be lost. Then will ensue the final vision of destruction: the sky turns blood red, and all is poisoned. During this time, the earth will heal itself and man will die.

Rob Olds: We went through a whole series of changes just cleaning up the actual physical living of our life. We turned off our refrigerator two and a half years ago, because refrigerators are monuments to ill-usage of energy on the planet. It’s made out of chemicals that hurt the ozone. It’s designed primarily for products of extractive agriculture; it’s for dairy products, it’s for meat, it’s for the kind of vegetables that are raised and shipped on trucks. And it’s all quite recent.

Rachel Dutton: Living on the prairie, in the context of the larger nature that has nothing to do with culture, we slowly started living life as an art. It’s as if washing dishes, if done with presence, is as much of an art form as painting a picture or making a sculpture.

Suzi Gablik: Did your desire to make the kind of art objects you had made before simply dwindle, and die out in you?

RD: It just faded away.

RO: Actually, when we were first on the Rio Grande, we walked down to the river and when I stopped there, I immediately thought, “I’m never going to carve another piece of sculpture again.”

SG: Let’s swing around to my generic question for these conversations, “How do we live, then, in a time of decline, or maybe even collapse, and what role does art have?”

RD: None.

RO: None. None.

RD: For me personally, making art was a powerful act, but it was a powerful act because I had no other access to anything more powerful. I had no access to making a daily life of prayer. If you can live your daily life as a prayer, it is inherently more powerful than going to your studio.

RD: We went to a lot of trouble to get rid of toxic things in our environment. We still have a car – that’s a tough one. We got rid of the refrigerator. We got rid of the camera. We gave it away, because we didn’t want to use photochemicals anymore to promote ourselves. That’s the end of your art career right there, if you have no more camera.

RO: The basic plan is to sell the house, and pay off the mortgage; and then we’re going to just live someplace as simply as we can… We’ve also realized that you don’t need all this stuff that we live with today. You don’t need to have a mortgage, to have a house that keeps you warm; you don’t need to have this infrastructure in order to have food. There is enough food in the wild to feed us if we are able to live with the earth…

RO: Hunter-gatherers are the apex of human civilization. We need to go back to that point. All else is a bastardization and a plague. We can’t assume what is comfortable for society, pick and choose. You’ve got to do it all the way, or not at all. Or we die.”

The actual interview is obviously much longer. If you want to read the whole thing there is a copy in the library or I can make a photocopy for you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's So Smart About "Smart Choices"?


We’ve all seen the “Smart Choices” label on the front of what seems like every product at the conventional supermarket, but what does the label entail? According to the many major food corporations that have adopted the Smart Choices label and attached it to their products, the symbol stands to identify quality food products that are, essentially, tasty yet healthy (or at least suggests that the product is a healthier choice).


From the viewpoint of those behind the labeling scheme, they see the Smart Choices logo as a way of guiding consumer’s choices towards the products that are the lesser of the nutritional evils. One of the designers offers a scenario in which the Smart Choices logo is working productively, “You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids, and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal. So Froot Loops is a better choice.”


At what point have our breakfast choices ever been limited to Froot Loops or doughnuts? The label has no significance whatsoever, considering it is applied to products that contain “caffeine, food dyes, the preservative BHA, artificial sweeteners, and other additives that are suspected of causing or have been shown to cause adverse reproductive, behavioral, or gastrointestinal effects or cancer.”


The creators of the Smart Choices label can afford to stay in business because major corporations including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft, and PepsiCo are throwing money in sums of up to $100,000 annually in order to have the Smart Choices label privileges. The label is then applied liberally, because the more items the Smart Choice program certifies, the more money it earns. This gives me all the more incentive to read labels and know what they truly represent.

Green Burials

Will be presenting on this tomorrow!

Some links:



Some things to consider:

1. What are the differences (and possibly benefits) of green burial vs. (green) cremation.

2. How does green burial benefit the earth, or is it another 'green' marketing tool.


Vegetarian is the new Prius

Jordan Bogash

In the article Vegetarian is the new Prius by Kathy Freston, the basic argument is that people are buying greener cars such as the prius and the next step to a greener planet is going vegetarian. She uses the metaphor vegetarian is the new prius, like its the new cool thing to do even name dropping Leonardo DiCaprio saying even he drives prius and is a vegetarian. which personally I dont care what Leo is doing. But Kathy Freston does write about alarming information with such facts such as animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, it emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide, it makes sence to go vegitarian.

I think the intended audiance is towards hip meat eaters. My first objection to everyone going vegitarian is that humans are supposed to eat meat. But with alarming facts on animal argiculter destroying or planet, a compromise would make more sence for all the meat eaters to cut back rather then cutting meat out of their diet complety. Kathy Freston gives examples of how America is opening up to vegitarian foods such as Burger King offering delicious veggie burgers and supermarket refrigerators are lined with heart-healthy creamy soymilk and tasty veggie deli slices. With that stated I think kathy freston is saying it that going vegitarian is the cool new thing to save the enviroment. I think she could have done a better job getting her point across by saying cut back on the meat or are planet is doomed. Rather then throwing this trendy celebrity talk all through out her article.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You never let me down, Japan.

Japan invests in space solar energy!!!

Not that it's going to happen anytime soon, or continued funding for the project will last that long, but Japan is investing in space solar energy.

In a nutshell, putting little satellites into space that collects the energy from the sun and then ZAPPING it down to earth with LASERS/ MICROWAVES. Here's the link:

Activism made easy

So I googled the Union of Concerned Scientists after seeing it mentioned in the Paul Roberts article. Yes, they have a butterfly logo but they do make it super easy to e-mail your congress(wo)men about issues that are happening - right now - in the government. I for one feel totally empowered by the bright orange TAKE ACTION buttons. Click here for a list of things upon which you can TAKE ACTION.


And for those of you who, like me until about 20 minutes ago, had no idea how congress actually does shit, they break it down in a very comprehensible way . The link to THOMAS at the bottom is useful as well if you're interested in reading the minutes of congressional hearings.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hello all,

I am giving a report on the Transition Network movement. Here are some links to become familiar with what the movement is all about:

Wikipedia site:


Official Websites:


Interview with Transition Network founder, Rob Hopkins:


Critique of the movement from worldchanging.com:



- Jon

Aquaponics!

This week my report will be about Aquaponics, a symbiotic environment of plants and fish. This cross between hydroponics and fish-farming is a recirculating system that yields incredibly high crop results using less than half the water normally used on farms.

Aquaponics is a sustainable way to grown food, it is especially effective in locations where the soil is bad and water is scarce. It is a way to provide local and organic food year-round.

Here are some things to look at before next class:

This is a farmer’s youtube channel documenting his own Aquaponics greenhouse. I suggest looking at the winter update as well (located to the right of the video).

http://www.youtube.com/user/web4deb

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS3sej53gx0

http://yesmagazine.org/issues/food-for-everyone/growing-power-in-an-urban-food-desert

http://civileats.com/2009/12/03/inventing-the-suburban-farm/


And some things to ponder:

How can we best use this system to serve our society?

Although this new type of agriculture cuts back on water, foreign fertilizers and the use of machines powered by oil, it uses a lot of energy and man power. Is this an acceptable trade off?

THE DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF OUR BOUNTIFUL HARVEST PRECIS

Article by Malcolm G. Scully

Precis by Reggie Gay

This article operates under the assumption that, although agriculture is largely beneficial, it’s brutalizing nature has played a large role in the fall of civilizations throughout history. Wes Jackson, founder of the environmental studies program at Cal State University Sacramento in the 1970s, is the key figure in the article. He proposes that there is a “problem of agriculture,” despite increasing productivity and the “success of the green revolution.” He claims that the economic success of industrial agriculture has lead us to believe that there is no problem, but that the chemical requirements (dependence on fossil fuels, pesticides, and fertilizers) are unsupportable. A good metaphor to the agricultural situations might be an athlete on steroids: chemicals heighten productivity, but degrade the body. His solution is what he calls “natural systems agriculture:” creating a system that mimics native ecosystems. But is it a good way to think about agriculture? To pretend that it is working on a deeper, more cooperative level because it “mimics nature?” The effect is creating something that looks like nature, but is necessarily not. Jackson says, “We must make this subject as complicated as it is,” and I think his system is not a bad solution, but I don’t think it takes into account the affect of the scale of industrial agriculture in tandem with its use of chemicals. Four “basic biological questions” are presented that address crop yields and natural vs. artificial fertilizers and pesticides, but not how a man-made ecosystem is replacing a natural one. An alternative solution presented in the article is the use of biotechnology. Jackson is not against the idea of biotechnology, but it’s affect of enabling corporations to “turn DNA into capital” and possibly degrading a crop’s genome. He suggests that all the issues and stakes are subtle, and in fact unfathomable, but that we need a breakthrough in agriculture that makes the unknowable knowable.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Precis for "Breadbasket of Democracy"

The article Breadbasket of Democracy is a story about the effects of corporate run farming on local farms in North Dakota. The Monsanto corporation embedded itself in several branches of the agricultural industry in North Dakota such as genetically engineered seeds and other products. A few general problems arose by the presence of the Monsanto corporation. First, their genetically made seeds needed to be cared for with herbicides that only Monsanto made and this forces the farmers who were interested in the new competitive farming (or who had been bought out) to not only use corporate seeds but also herbicides. Also, they created their products and required that all of their genetically engineered seeds (in the case of the article, the seeds were wheat) receive a patent so that they could control its growth and use. The article described the term "brownbagging", which is when someone knowingly or unknowingly uses patented seeds in their crops. Using patented seeds occurs either when they are harvested from a first generation of crops made from seeds bought from Monsanto or when they are placed in the crop without having purchased the seed due to thievery or simply wind carrying pollen. So, by the standards of the Monsanto corporation a farm can steal patented seeds without even doing it on purpose.
Todd Leake, a local farmer in North Dakota, claimed that growing wheat had been in his family for 120 years. Leake, being forced to do many of the things described above, took a stand against Monsanto and all corporate run farms. He expressed a set of concerns such as, in the 1990s several overseas markets rejected genetically engineered food from the U.S. and he feared this would once again occur and crumble the prices and overall business. He created a group of other concerned farmers and they fought it out in court and were able to ban Monsanto's control over North Dakota farms. There does not seem to be a specified thesis of this article but the underlying message seems to be (at least from Leake's side of things) that growing any kind of food or crop is a human right and requirement and should not be infringed upon by any other human. This message speaks to all demographics that are not clouded by corporate business.
Sean Haywood

Saturday, April 10, 2010

WWOOF

In Lisa Hamilton's Let's grow a new crop of farmers, she writes:

"Imagine, for instance, a program that puts interns on farms — an AmeriCorps for agriculture. In this “AgriCorps,” participants would learn the skills of farming and experience the lifestyle; hosts would receive valuable labor to bolster their businesses."

And I thought of WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. This is an organization that does just what Hamilton wants, it provides internships on hundreds of farms all over the world.

It's pretty sweet...



Monday, April 05, 2010

Polluting Biodiversity

This week I would like to report on the topic of genetic pollution caused in part by genetically engineered organisms (GE) which have entered into the ecosystem. Throughout history humans have have relied on the biodiversity of nature along with complex systems of agriculture to accommodate for various challenges such as pests, disease and climate change. With the introduction of GE organisms into the ecosystem the vast diversity of life forms has become threatened with mutation and destruction, leaving both the environment and the humans that inhabit it vulnerable to devastation.

Some articles to take a look at before class tomorrow:

What is Genetic Pollution and How is it Affecting our Food, Economy and Environment?

Understanding Genetic Pollution


Mounting Evidence of Genetic Pollution in GE Crops


Monsanto, Genetic Pollution and Monopolism

-Graham Austin

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Futurology Against Environmentalism

There are lots of futurological texts we can choose from among the many I've assigned for Tuesday morning. Give me a sense of what you are tending to respond to the most... The strange short story The Gentle Seduction? The Viridian design-aesthetic-environmentalist movement? The geo-engineering stuff? The digital utopianism stuff? It's all awfully intriguing in a bonkers sort of way, and definitely it connects to last week's capitalism materialism. Also, here in the Bay Area we are ground zero for some of these flavors of techno-utopianism. What are you most intrigued by, provoked by, annoyed by, inspired by, eager to discuss? If we converge on a few texts here on the blog in advance we'll have a better sense of where the conversation is likely to go Tuesday morning...

Satire!

This week I will be initiating a discussion on the role of satire in the green movement.

Sarcastic commentary on going green comes in many forms, ranging from attacks on the movement itself to derisive imitation of corporate advertising. Despite the humor in these satirical bits of media I've linked below, I assume most of our laughter leaves behind a bitter taste - "it's funny because it's true." But it's also depressing, which begs the basic question I'd like to address on Tuesday: does satire of the environmental movement ultimately encourage or placate potential, current, or unlikely supporters? If we find that it breeds complacency, should we, as concerned Earth-lovers (or however you define yourself), add satirical articles/ads/commercials to our ever-lengthening shit list of things to take down a peg? If we find that they are powerful tools for disseminating information, do we then perhaps make The Onion our finest - and only - news source?


Making Your Block Greener - an "Infographic" from The Onion highlighting various problems with urban gardening, touching on the larger issues of urbanization, gentrification, and bigotry as they apply to environmentalism.

Simple Tips For A Greener House - an "Interactive Slideshow" from The Onion . This graphic satirizes the quick'n'easy tips for being the greenest neighbor on your suburban block.

How Are Corporations Going Green? - another "Infographic" from The Onion pointing out that despite their best but rather transparent efforts, companies like Exxon and McDonald's have absolutely no business saying they're "green." At best, their attempts are laughable.

A couple more: Green Products, I'm Doing My Inconsequential Part For The Environment.


But let's move onto the videos!

A user video from Current TV introduces the term Eco-tistical: "an adjective used to describe someone who is more concerned about looking like they're concerned about the environment, than actually being concerned about the environment." While not exactly satirical, this dude points out plenty of blatant hypocrisies on the American social circuit among politicians and celebrities, while echoing our discussion early on in the semester about that jackass in the Audi from the SuperBowl commercial.

Green Bras and Recycled Dildos - from Current TV again, sarcastically glorifying "innovative" green products.


And finally, two more directly satirical videos directed at corporate "greenwashing."

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature - from The Onion.

This one does a rather, in my humble opinion, hilarious job of dissing the myriad of ads put out by energy companies that attempt to gloss over the fact that they are a company that produces energy. Kind of like that time Phillip Morris went schizo and created Altria to prevent consumers from associating the company's "healthier" products like Kraft foods and Miller Genuine Draft from cigarettes.

Report

Tuesday-after-next I'll be reporting on a study in a recent edition of the journal, Psychological Science titled, Do Green Products Make Us Better People?

A sample from their abstract:

"Building on recent research on behavioral priming and moral regulation, we found that mere exposure to green products and the purchase of such products lead to markedly different behavioral consequences. In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, results showed that people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green products than after mere exposure to conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products than after purchasing conventional products."

Frozen Fish Reel In Wind Power

Frozen fish help reel in Germany's wind power

Friday, April 02, 2010

What is Greenwashing & Why is it a Problem?

Greenwashing, by Melissa Whellams and Chris MacDonald
A Precis by Allie Moran

      According to the piece by Melissa Whellams and Chris MacDonald, from businessethics.ca, the term ‘greenwashing’ refers to the efforts of corporations to represent themselves to consumers and policy makers as being environmentally friendly by way of misleading advertising and branding, as well as larger corporate activities such as, “certain instances of environmental reporting, event sponsorship, distribution of educational materials, and the creation of front groups”. The writers explain that greenwashing techniques are often employed by companies not only as a way of marketing to new demographics of eco-minded consumers, but also as a way of covering up or downplaying said company’s larger ecological wrong-doings. In other words, the goal of corporate greenwashing is to win over, and profit from, green oriented consumers by convincing them that a specific company is environmentally responsible, without said company actually having to be environmentally responsible.             
      After initially defining the term Whellams and MacDonald ask, “What’s wrong with greenwashing?” and go on to elucidate the three major issues they have with the use of greenwashing techniques. These three sections also read as something of a timeline for the process and ramifications of greenwashing. The first issue they expand on is the fact that greenwashing is misleading; which they explain is a problem because it makes companies and corporations, many of which have terrible track records when it comes to environmentalism, appear to be responsible and environmentally conscious. The writers acknowledge that not all environmental advertising is greenwashing, but fall short of suggesting how one might go about separating good advertisements from the bad.            
    The second issue they outline is that greenwashing has the potential to create complacency on the part of both consumers and regulators. Whellams and MacDonald assert that if whole industries begin to get away with greenwashing, consumers will simply take corporate advertising at face value and make purchases accordingly, thereby furthering the detriment to the earth that is taking place at the hands of these corporations. Ultimately, this would result in smug consumers and corporations as well as an industry predicated by the illusion of sustainability, rather than sustainability itself.             
     Lastly, Whellams and MacDonald suggest that greenwashing may also give rise to cynicism within the marketplace and make consumers doubtful of even the most genuine portrayals of corporate responsibility toward the environment. So, rather than seeking out and supporting well-meaning and sincere companies, consumers will shy away from or become critical of all companies within an industry. Whellams and MacDonald then allude to the fact that this will ultimately harm companies who actually are eco-friendly, and end the paper by exclaiming, “Thus well-meaning companies, companies committed to responsible behaviour with regard to the environment, have every reason to be critical of companies that greenwash.” 
     Overall, the piece made a number of interesting and valuable points, but it also seemed to have a palpable level of bias. It’s pretty clear that the intended audience of this piece is a person/group that is more tuned into or invested in the ecological aspects of this topic, rather than someone who is looking at greenwashing techniques within a socioeconimic framework. 
     For one thing, it seems that they completely neglected to consider greenwashing’s position within the much larger context of corporate advertising and marketing. That is to say, that it functions in the same way, and with the same intentions, as any other marketing scheme. It should pretty much go without saying that all companies, whether small businesses or huge corporations, are founded on the goal of making money. For this very reason, the use of misleading advertising has been common practice for decades, if not centuries. This doesn’t nullify the blame and criticism pointed at companies that greenwash, it is totally unethical, but how bad is it really when you compare it to other misleading advertisements? How is greenwashing more underhanded or more offensive to consumers than weight loss drugs, stretchmark creams, penis enlargers, get rich quick schemes, or even psychics? I suppose one could go out on a limb and argue that it’s implied in the text that greenwashing is worse because it affects the planet, not just consumers, but if that is the stance that Whellams and MacDonald are taking it doesn’t seem too much to ask for them to expand on this facet of their argument, as it’s a pretty pivotal aspect of the topic as a whole. 
     The writers also appeared to have overlooked the importance of consumer responsibility while exploring this topic. It’s arguable that the third concern they discuss, consumer skepticism, is actually both reasonable and productive. By making purchases based on research, comparison-shopping, and a healthy dose of common sense (rather than whatever they said on that hybrid SUV commercial), a hesitant or disillusioned consumer could fairly easily wade through the bullshit and feel empowered by the ability to support companies they deem responsible and trustworthy. On a larger scale, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this type of consumer awareness could affect the overall use of unethical and deceptive practices such as greenwashing, because it would display to corporations that consumers quite literally aren’t “buying it”. Since the number one goal of corporations is to make money, it would be in their best interest to change their product so that it’s palatable for the growing demographic of eco-consumers, or at the very least, to find a way of advertising to these consumers that isn’t so objectionable.