Monday, March 5, 2012

Buying Green

Did you get the impression, on Feel-Good Friday, that I was lightening up on the "vote with your dollar" movement? Well, it's Monday morning now.

From the Climate and Capitalism blog's review of Kendra Pierre-Louis' Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet:

Her new book Green Washed is a powerful critique of “the comforting message that we can shop ourselves out of our current environmental mess.”
“Too many businesses and environmental groups have led us to believe that if we buy the correct collection of products, we can save the planet. While these assurances have done much to assuage our collective guilt, and even more to create a generation of smug eco-shoppers, it has done next to nothing to fundamentally change the environmental landscape, while in many cases actively contributing to environmental degradation and misinformation.”
So far so good? Pour yourself a warm beverage into your reusable mug and lean back. 

In refreshing contrast to most books on consumerism, Green Washed pins the blame for excess consumption on our economic system, not on individual psychology.
“If we were to make reducing our consumption to a level that was both materially satisfying and ecologically sustainable our central focus, our entire global economic system would collapse. This isn’t a hyperbole. Our economic system is based on the need for perpetual growth; we either grow our economy or it dies, taking us along with it.”
Hm. Food for thought. Take a bite of that muffin.

Unfortunately, Pierre-Louis’s analysis of causes stops with criticism of growth. She doesn’t ask why the global economic system is so irrational. Why is the only alternative to one polluting product so often another that pollutes as badly or worse? Many brilliant writers have criticized growth, and offered detailed proposals for steady-state economies – why have they been ignored by those in power? What about our existing social and economic order makes growth so essential and environmental destruction so universal?

Because it doesn’t pursue those questions, Green Washed proposes band aid solutions when major surgery is needed. Having firmly rejected individual green shopping, the alternative Pierre-Louis offers amounts to green shopping in groups.

And the bracing shock of cold water. 

Projects that improve the sustainability and resilience of local communities are important, but they are no substitute for political and social action against the global forces that are destroying our world. Unless we stop and reverse those forces, Pierre-Louis’s shadow economies will be small green islands in an ocean of environmental destruction – and water levels will continue rising.

Back to work.

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