16 May 2006


In response to this:

When the consumer society was gathering steam, sometime around the time Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, the idea of an "ecological crisis" was born. Earlier societies had experienced environmental disaster, most famously the coal-fired "London fogs" that choked the lungs out of 19th-century England, but they did not regard this disaster as "ecological crisis." It is the distinction of consumer society to have meditated upon ecological crisis.

Consumer society, nevertheless, is a form of society that channels efforts at happiness through the consumption of "goods and services" (to repeat an Econ 101 cliche). Consumers, then, are happiest when they're consuming. Ecological crisis is the flip side of this; it is the notion that human beings are consuming the world to death. And it's true; that's what consumers are doing.

Consequently, "companies in fields like organics, green construction, energy conservation, efficient appliances, hybrid cars, and more" exist to satisfy this consumer society. Green appliances aren't for "the environment," they're for consumers. "Remarkable success stories" are about pleasing environmentalist consumers. "Improved ecological and human health" exists against the background of an ecology and a humanity that is hardly getting healthier. "Talented people are showing up for work every day" to feel good about themselves.

Really, seriously, if we wish to defend the right of the next seven generations to a life, or if we wish to defend the right of the environment to its ecological integrity, we will have to revolutionize society so that it is no longer capitalist society or consumer society. We can start by thinking about how we humans are going to stop consuming 85 million barrels of oil each day.

But if those really are your goals, if that is really what you want to accomplish, then consumer environmentalism is not going to make it happen. For consumer environmentalism is the appliance the consumer environmentalists plug in to make themselves happy. It's not about the environment.


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