Wednesday 3 June 2009

A response......

This is a first. It is a response to 2 comments I have had. One came from eco-boudoir on 'eco-bling' and the other was from 'anonymous' on Pig Business. My response is mostly about eco-boudoir and their contribution to the type of comment made by 'anonymous'.

Re: Eco Boudoir: This sort of 'environmentalism' capitalizes on and creates a desire to be a certain type of 'green' - 'conspicuously green'. It embodies consumer culture rather than challenging it. Given the premium prices of these ‘green’ products, being conspicuously green communicates the message: I buy green because I can afford to.

Being green is therefore often portrayed as a middle/upper class endeavour pursued by those who can afford the ethical lifestyle that reaffirms their social status.

The effect of 'eco-bling' is that the majority of the world's people see being green as a luxury decision, one they can't afford to take - see the comment made by 'Anonymous' to my Pig Business article. The truth is that being green is not an expensive thing to do, it is in fact cheaper than being materialistic, it shouldn't cost you more money to be green! NEF have identified 'Five ways to Wellbeing' that are summarised by these headings: Connect... Be Active... Take Notice... Keep Learning...and...Give. Sustainability is about doing all these things in environmentally and socially responsible ways - Enjoying life without compromising the ability of others to enjoy theirs. The possibilities are endless!

Supposedly ethically 'wise' wealthy westerners should not, in my view, still be painting the consumption of luxury, expensive, materially dependent goods and services as the definition of success, happiness and the good life. It is irrelevant whether the good is produced ethically or not, the message is still: 'You need to be indulgent and extravagant to be a sophisticated woman.' The ethical messaging just adds 'green' to that sentence, you can place it before indulgent or after sophisticated. Most people can't afford luxury goods at all let alone pay an added green premium, they therefore opt for the cheaper unsustainable option, whether that be pants, pork, paint or pull overs even if they want to be green. They also get frustrated with the smug, rich and conspicuously green.

It all comes down to how people define what it is to be 'green', we can't go on defining being green as being a consumerist. As convenient as it would be, consumerism and environmentalism can't exist hand in hand. Einstein said: “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” As environmentalists we need to help people let go of consumerist values (consciousness) and crucially show the way to more fulfilling lives that are less dependent on material goods and services that promise but never really deliver happiness and wellbeing. This is what people like NEF and Tom Hodgkinson are trying to do, maybe the people at Eco-Boudoir could get involved and stop winding up people like 'anonymous' and me!

Still unclear? Read Stewart Barr on the myth of green living

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