Tag Archives: consumerism

“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad” – intrinsic values as drivers for social change and tools to escape consumerism

One of the debates that has regularly reared its head in the environmental movement is how best to achieve change to more environmentally friendly behaviour. Small specific steps often seem the most direct and effective way to achieve practical change now, and yet there is intuitively a disquieting gap between the scale of social change needed and such small, non-challenging steps as changing to more efficient light-bulbs.

About a year ago, WWF-UK came out with a report, titled Weathercocks & Signposts, that addresses this precisely question.

After examining a wide range of evidence, they conclude that we need a “radically different approach” to product-marketing style campaigns that begin with the assumption of the sovereignty of consumer choice. Instead, they say, “any adequate strategy for tackling environmental challenges will demand engagement with the values that underlie the decisions we make – and, indeed, with our sense of who we are” (p.5)

Marketing style campaigns usually seek to “go with what works”, which may well result in campaigns based on appeals to status and self-interest rather than environmental values. They may seem to be the most effective way of achieving change in the short-run.

“But the evidence presented in this report suggests that such approaches may actually serve to defer, or even undermine, prospects for the more far-reaching and systemic behavioural changes that are needed.” (p.5)

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Filed under Barry, green politics, sustainability

Accelerating over the edge of the cliff

Climate & Capitalism have posted a  Sunday Herald story on a report due out tomorrow. The report is by the environmental advisors to the U.K governments and appears to pull no punches – a taste:

The economic system is broken, and attempts by governments to fix it by kick-starting growth and consumerism are “delusional” and “pathological”

UPDATE: The full report, a summary, and background papers are available here. The full report is quite sizeable, so you might want to start with the summary – it is good stuff. A few  quotes as a summary of  the summary follow:

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I can’t get no satisfaction: Consumption, identity and alienation

A survey by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (reported here) suggests a decline in green consumption by New Zealanders in 2008, and, compared to last year, fewer people have ‘green intentions’ for the coming year. Commenting on the survey, the splendidly named Rick Starr, a marketing academic, said people were intrigued by the idea of buying green “but when it comes down to actual purchase it’s hard to find products that fit. Green options for people are limited. … Although people have good intentions and would like to be greener, sometimes it’s hard to do that. Walk into a supermarket and look at how little organic produce there is.”

Is it hard to be a green consumer simply because the purchasing options are limited, as Starr suggests? Is the answer simply to get more green product onto supermarket shelves? Or is something more complex going on here?

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The changing face of eco-politics

In the 1980s, environmental politics developed a set of fundamental assumptions heavily influenced by socialist humanism. This socialist perspective was a radical break with the benign authoritarianism that had dominated eco-political thinking in the previous decade; while there were some Marxist influences to be seen (particularly in ‘eco-socialism’), the dominant socialist influence on the new thinking was classical anarchism.

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Filed under David, green politics