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Natasha Walter (The Guardian): Can environmental ethics save the planet?

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Jack Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:39 AM
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Natasha Walter (The Guardian): Can environmental ethics save the planet?

From The Guardian Unlimited (London)
Dated Saturday March 4


All the organic broccoli in the world won't be enough to save the planet
Adopting an ethical lifestyle is meaningless unless we carry its principles outside our own homes and gardens
By Natasha Walter

When Newsnight launched its "ethical man" experiment a couple of weeks ago, with the aim of transforming the life of one of its journalists, Justin Rowlatt, we all knew immediately what "ethical" meant in the phrase. Just as with other ethical makeovers we have seen over the last few years, from the hilariously casual Christa d'Souza in Vogue to the impressively thorough Leo Hickman in this very newspaper, there is a clear set of "ethical" goals to be met.

Switch to a sustainable power supply. Get your organic vegetables delivered. Cycle. Recycle. I am as keen as the next Newsnight viewer to go along with those goals, and happily tick the boxes in my own life. I too get a nice warm glow from putting scraps in the compost bin or going to the farmers' market. I too resolve to do even more and be even better next month and next year. And I can see and admire where the most committed proponents of this kind of ethical living want us to go - all the way to a thoroughly Thoreauvian life lived close to the land that would eventually be embraced by everyone in society. In the ideal progression, as you buy your fair-trade coffee and plant your carrot seeds in your wildlife friendly garden, you would become part of a widespread revolution in the way people relate to the land and the market, and seamlessly move on towards a society in which we would live lightly on the land and gently with one another.

I can see that ideal shining out of the writing and lives of a few people, and admire those who live by it in their carbon-neutral homes with their compost loos. Those few have turned their backs on the lifestyle sold to us in travel magazines and fashion catwalks - a lifestyle that looks so brilliantly bright with its transatlantic flights to glittering beaches and endlessly renewed clothes, but is in fact so dirty and leaves a snail's trail of filth across the world. Instead, they are embracing a lifestyle that may look a bit grubbier but is in fact a whole lot cleaner, and that decision is an example for us all to ponder. But it's important to be honest right now, and say that the way that ethical consumerism seeps into most people's lives is nothing like that, and does not seem to be taking society as a whole any closer to that ideal. Why is that? For a start, for most of us the ethical label is still a brand among other brands, one you can sport now and again.

This pick'n'mix ethical lifestyle is hardly going to start a revolution. You can drink Innocent smoothies while standing in the queue for your transatlantic flight; you can eat locally grown broccoli but be unable to resist the imported blueberries beside it; you can buy a Topshop fair-trade T-shirt alongside a couple of dresses that are so amazingly cheap you just can't imagine how little the women were paid who stitched them. Is it simply a way of taking our minds off the heaps of disposable rubbish that we are buying if we pay for them with our new Bono-endorsed Red Amex card?

Read more.

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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:00 PM
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1. All too true.
It makes you wonder if much of our "green consumerism" is merely greenwash in the greater view. Not that such is bad, it is good, but it may leave many with the impression that they've done their part. Maybe so, but it won't be enough. I don't believe that Capitalism works as advertised, rather that the Invisible Hand has got me by the balls. We'll not change the world with supply and demand, the big producers will supply what they wish and then tell us what to demand via TV, advertising, or simply by making it oh so convenient.

I feel the same about mainstream environmental orgs, if their membership and resources could be combined to work at a political level like the LCV they would leave a much bigger footprint on the political landscape.
To quote HS Thompson slightly out of context, "Politics is the art of controlling one's environment."

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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:45 PM
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2. Relying on moral arguments doesn't work.
Most people will only do enviromentally-freindly things as long as it doen't affect thier lifestle much. Economic things like gasoline and polution taxes, and incentives for nuclear, renewables, and oil alternatives like biofuel are needed to force people and industries to be more enviromentally friendly.
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Jack Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 03:41 PM
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3. That is an excellent point that applies to so much
However, I believe it would make a differnece if we made it easier for people to be ethical. For example, one would be mmore likely to dispose of recyclables if one's community had a recycling program. Another thing I'd like to see is a toxic recyclable program. I'd change my own motor oil more often if it were more convenient to properly dispose of the waste.

Another thing we need to fight pollution is alternative transportation. People aren't going to take the bus to work if it takes a couple of hours and costs so much more than driving. Public transportation should be designed with the idea in mind that people will buy fewer cars.

Another thing we need to do is question our lifestyle. When I was a child (I'm 54), American families typically had one car; now they have two or three. Are we better off? One income supported the family in the fifties and early sixties; now it takes two. Also, are we better off for advances in ingormation technology? If these are work-saving tools, where is the increase in leisure time? Computers are being used not to save labor, but to increase productivity and produce more of what we don't need to buy but makes somebody else rich if he sells it.
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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 03:46 PM
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4. Yeah, fuck them Greenies. They just suck
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 04:46 PM by jpak
If you want to save the planet, vote Republican, drive a Hummer and place your faith in the Baby Jebus - he'll show them organic broccoli eatin' Greenies a thang or two come Jujbent Day!!

:rofl:
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