Earth Day 2008: “Going Green” and the Rhetoric of Mainstream Environmentalism

Today is the thirty-eighth Earth Day and, at least from my perspective, it remains unclear what positive impact, if any, this “celebration” has had on long-term ecological/agricultural sustainability. In fact, I am going to argue that Earth Day and other instantiations of mainstream environmentalism serve to obfuscate the very problems that they intend to address. People buy into (both figuratively and literally) the rhetoric of mainstream environmentalism as a defense mechanism. The seduction of the phrase “going green” proposes a fashionable, celebrity-endorsed lifestyle that enables a person to resist, deny, or otherwise marginalize the fact that their continued existence on the planet costs–that they will always exist at the cost of something or someone else.

Before I continue my argument, let me make a couple of things clear. First, the only difference between my mindset and the mindset that I am critiquing here is that I am keenly aware of the cost of my existence. That is to say, I am in no way an ideologue, “environmentalist,” anti-capitalist, or whatever, but I also would never presume to deny that every part of my daily existence involves a Darwinian deflection of costs onto someone or something else. The gas I use in my car is gas that someone else can’t use. The bird I ate for dinner last night must die so that I can eat. The energy that runs my computer to write this post, that keeps this blog existent in cyberland is energy that cannot be reallocated to another purpose. I want to make clear then that I’m advocating nothing here except a resistance to illusion, a resistance to rhetoric that resists the reality of these costs. I’m not indicting people for jumping on the idea of “going green,”nor am I suggesting that their intentions and actions are ignoble or ignorant. I’m simply arguing that the rhetoric of mainstream environmentalism that the boomers and post-boomers are now recapitulating and buying into is part of a corporate shell game that masks the systemic problems of industrialized agribusiness and deflects responsibility away from those corporations and onto individuals.

Let’s now consider the current signal phrase of this mindset: “going green.” I don’t know where this came from, but it’s genius. Americans have been in love with the “gerund + noun” combination for years now (consider: Finding Nemo, Finding Forrester, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Chasing Amy, Breaking Bad, etc.), and what’s catchier than the optimism of a verb like “go”? It radiates simple but strong action, movement, and also implies a teleological end, a positive destination–here, the mindset/pseudophilosophy “green.” And it’s alliterative to boot. People love to say this phrase, and love to believe that when they buy certified organic foods or remember to bring their own bags to the grocery store or put gas in their Priuses (Prii?) that they’ve somehow done something intrinsically and in and of itself, good. The rhetoric abrogates their culpability in a systemic denaturalization of the human position in the world which they cannot control. The rhetoric buys the lie of control and choice, and resists the truth that to live in our modern world is to live at the cost of someone or something else.

The phrase “Save the Planet” is less insidious by sheer virtue of its exaggerated ludicrousness. As rhetoric, “Save the Planet” is the worst kind of anthropomorphic evil, the hyperbolic illusion of the human as ultimate hero. If one simply considers for a moment the scope of what the slogan commands, one can see the sheer folly of such a mindset. A more appropriate vision would be: “Save Local Food” or “Save Your Money: Do You Really Need That Thing?”

Mainstream, corporate environmentalism reflects the will to god-like mastery over nature in the illusion of stewardship and care over the planet

“Recycle, Reduce, Reuse,” however, is not a bad mantra really–when detached from the rampant materialism it seeks to cover up, that is. In fact, the tenets of recycling and reusing are ancient, simply because before consumer culture, there wasn’t really another option. People had to squeeze the last little bit of use out of anything and everything they consumed.

There is a salient irony then in the boomers buying into these phrases–and I target boomers here, although every generation after the boomers is just as culpable. The boomers, however, are really the first American generation to accelerate the post-WWII homogenization of consumer culture, with all its implications to agribusiness, rampant stripmalling, and the emergence of the “corporate citizen.” The boomers’ massive ideological failure in the 1960s leads directly to the selfish materialism of those “Me” decades, the 70s and 80s (think of the final scenes of Woodstock: the party’s over and the pastoral landscape is now littered with every sort of consumerist debris).

Post-apocalyptic landscape (after peace, love, and understanding)

We are now trying to clean all this up, and the boomers, whose cultural norms still dictate this country, are finally getting on board. But the irony is that environmentalism-as-ideology was never much of an issue before the boomers got a stranglehold on this country, simply because every generation up to and including WWII had to be de facto environmentalists. Consumer society simply didn’t exist. People ate local food, walked most places, built their own houses, etc. (make no mistake–I’m not romanticizing or idealizing this: life was tough). This isn’t to suggest at all that the prescient efforts of John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, etc. were not important or meaningful or even necessary during their context, because they were. At this point, however, we are all implicated in a global economy in which an inequitable distribution of the world’s resources, coupled with the rapid emerging industrialization of the world’s two largest nations, India and China, entails an imminent ecological disaster. And appreciating nature in our glorious National Park System is not going to fix that, at least not on its own.

I hate to pose problems without solutions, but my solutions are admittedly vague and general. I return first to my real issue here: rhetoric. Mainstream, corporate environmentalism encourages people to shop their way out of this problem (see: greenwashing). People get to buy into the continued illusion of a cost-free existence, or at least to believe that their actions as consumers neutralize these (ecological, environmental, human, animal) costs. The first step, then, is to recognize that the small individual actions that corporations so readily promote are not enough. What is needed is full-scale, infrastructural changes focusing on local production of foods and usable mass transit systems. I believe that such changes can be more easily accomplished than the (Big Oil sponsored) U.S. government would like the average citizen to believe; currently, however, there are simply too many getting rich off the last few drops of cheap oil to redirect their efforts to such a project. So they distract us with sloganeering and feel-good celebrations as they rob the earth. We can beat this though. Let’s lose the illusion.

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14 comments

  1. Mike · April 22, 2008

    you are saying exactly what i have been thinking regarding the subject. the fact of the matter is that the # 1 way in which individuals harm the environment is by CONSUMPTION. you hit the nail on the head in that corporations and industries have ingeniously not only deflected responsibility onto the individual, but then turned around and mass produced and sold the “personal solutions”…all the while contributing to more manufacturing and more industrial waste. i tried explaining this to my wife, who’s an avid buyer of so-called “green” products…that the green product movement has simply created a new niche market for MORE industrialization! there are products out there that are truly as green as a mass market product can be, but a little research will show that the vast majority of organic or green brands are subsidiaries of major corporations…the very same that are deflecting the costs (both monetarily and environmentally) of their destruction onto you, the consumer. the answers at an individual citizen level are undoubtedly: make steps towards self-sufficiency, when consumerism is necessary keep it at a local level whenever possible, VOTE, help grassroots environmental causes (at least the ones with their heads in the right place) and # 1: STOP BUYING SO MUCH CRAP. i’m not as hopeful that we can beat this, because the power structure of this country (and the world, mostly as a result of this country) is now so centralized and rotten with corporate influence that the only real possibility in my eyes for even beginning the REVERSAL of environmental damage is the fall of industrial civilization. i’m hoping we just start taking steps towards neutralizing the damage we do on a daily basis in my lifetime. bottom line – don’t celebrate earth day by driving your prius to whole foods or, even better, wal-mart (who’s now wholeheartedly embraced the “organic” movement) and loading up on green goods….why not try starting a garden of your own, or participating in a community garden, or maybe do some research on the statistics of environmental damage done by corporations as opposed to individuals…i’m betting if you do your consumerist solutions to greening the planet won’t seem so green anymore.

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  2. Kara · April 22, 2008

    Yes, rhetoric and consumption of “going green” bad (As a side note, another irritating new phrase that I’m seeing more and more is to “grow” something other than food. For example, I used to work at the US Tennis association, and they always talk about “growing the game.” Now I’m seeing that sort of phrasing everywhere. Shudder.) To echo Mike’s comments above, here’s a nice article from today NYTimes, that gets beyond the rhetoric and offers reasons why you, yes you, should do something about climate change. And he even offer some solutions, the #1 being: grow at least some of your own food. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/magazine/20wwln-lede-t.html?ref=magazine

    I’m also seeing the consumption of crap as a huge culprit that’s not being addressed. Also, consumption of food. Seriously, this would be a great way to market weight loss to fat people concerned with climate change: the more food you stuff in your mouth, the more harm you are doing to the environment. Considering that approximately 1/2 of Americans say they are concerned with the environment, and approximately 1/3 are overweight, I’d say that’s a pretty huge market.

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  3. Pingback: Queercents » Blog Archive » The Cost of Going Green
  4. Mike Barrett · April 22, 2008

    i second most of the above, but i’d like to point out two things:

    1) i think that generations are rhetorical constructions in themselves. do you agree? if so, how does that impact your argument with respect to the boomers? if you don’t agree, what am i missing there?

    2) while i believe wholehearedly that we should ‘fix’ the environment, whatever that means, i also believe that the environment is far more robust than most commentators give it credit for. how do you know–actually know–what state the environment is in? the global average temperature has never been measured, the apparent hole in the ozone never caused all the skin cancer deaths in australia it was supposed to, and there’s more oil remaining underground than has ever been drilled. i’m not suggesting that we should abuse the massively complex chemical system that is the earth, but i am suggesting that if it were actually as fragile as we’re acting like it is we would never have gotten here in the first place. you’re so skeptical of so many other movements, which i generally applaud–why swallow environmentalism without scrutiny?

    2)a) i was talking to a woman who lives next door, a phd in biology, and she was telling me, somewhat condescendingly, that all the feral cats in gainesville should be poisoned. i asked why, naturally. she said it was because they out-compete the local songbirds. i asked why a songbird should have more of a right to live than a cat, scientifically speaking (since she claimed to be speaking as a scientist)–since when does science have anything to do with rights? she explained that the songbirds were ‘native’ to the area, so the cats should die. i asked about natural selection, which is sort of a big deal in modern biology, and she scoffed that this wasn’t a going concern for an applied biologist. this raises all kinds of questions. first, how can any organism be native, unless you impose an arbitrary time boundary on nativeness? ten million years ago there were no songbirds in gainesville, just as a hundred years ago there may have been no cats. more importantly, how can we decide which species (stable forms) are the ones we ought to protect? which temperature is the right one? are humans a part of the environment, or do we stand in judgment of it?

    if we don’t stand in judgment of it, as i believe we don’t, why would consciously tampering with the environment, as greenists want us to do, be any better than accidentally fucking it up (indeed, there are several examples of well-meaning environmentalists poisoning the environment horribly–see tire reefs inter alia)? doesn’t that obligate a deconstructionist to reject the environmentalist narrative?

    as a corollary, if we do actually stand in judgment of the environment, presumably as its . . . stewards? its self-interested guests? whatever we are . . . does that make the environment your telos?

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  5. ed biblioklept · April 22, 2008

    1. Most ideological constructions are rooted in rhetoric. Frederic Jameson called this the “prison houses of language.” This doesn’t have an immediate practical effect on my argument. Accept that I am speaking fast and loose, and that in a few hundred words, I need not nit-pick every detail. I hate the boomers. I blame them for all social ills.
    2. No one here is swallowing “environmentalism” w/out scrutiny. Did you bother to read the thread? Did you even look at the picture of the earth in a human hand, and read
    the caption? My whole idea was that the rhetoric of “green” hides the Darwinian selfishness in which all living things are implicated. The idea that we are masters of the planet is the worst kind of hangover from the opening chapters of Genesis. Again, Mike, please thoroughly read the text before jumping into the conversation.
    2a. Humans are a part of the environment that also have the (seemingly unique) ability to also stand in judgment of it, the same way we might stand in judgment of a cheese sandwich or a piece from Brahms.
    Again, I defer to my Darwinian argument. We resist life’s intrinsic, fatal violence by attempting to moralize our involvement with ecology. How is it possible to NOT “tamper” with the environment? How is drilling for oil not “tampering”? How is farming somehow not “tampering”? Or flying in an airplane? Or culling a population of animals. Is this not all “tampering”?

    Furthermore, I don’t consider myself a “deconstructionist,” (or anything-ist, for that matter), but, no, a deconstructionist is not obligated to do anything.

    How can we not be “self-interested guests”? It is impossible to not not be self-interested (“steward” was a term I was mocking…). This implies no other telos than: “breathe,” “drink,” “fuck,” “eat”…which is hardly teleological, in my not-so-humble opinion. This is simply the biological imperative of existence. Physical ontology needs no teleological predicate. To impose one is simply to look for one.

    Finally, I don’t care about the environment in a Jesusian, transcendent sense. I am more concerned with the sickness of materialism that afflicts all of us, and its immediate effects. This is not to say that I pine for a romantic lost age, where I might be eaten by a tiger or starve to death in the cold or have many of my children die of disease…I am not romantic about the Darwinian past! I just think that we have evolved a system where we can pretend to be absolved of the moral culpability of the costs of our actions, or our very existence. We are like the teenage girl who refuses to eat chicken with bones in it, who wouldn’t dream of eating the gizzards, the feet, the spine–any corporeal reminder that she takes a life.

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  6. Dave C. · April 22, 2008

    I think the thing that nails down Ed’s argument is the very fact that entire nations are buying their way out of whatever damage they have caused to the planet. The very idea that a developed country can spend money to save a rainforest, or develop organic coffee farming in an “emerging country” and somehow neutralize their own pollution output just simply doesn’t wash.

    We still get to pollute but get to feel a little bit better about it as our costs are being theoretically neutralized. It seems that a cynic could look at this scheme and determine that the developed nations are just paying emerging ones to just stay backwards for a little while longer. We’ll take their food and their resources, but we don’t want them to pave over their forest because we haven’t vacationed there yet or because we’re just not ready to compete with a brand new IBM call center….

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  7. Dave C. · April 22, 2008

    I just read this. How wild would this be if it actually worked?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/technology/27proto.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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  8. Mike Barrett · April 22, 2008

    1) i blame the generation that educated the boomers.

    2) i am reading :) you’re rejecting the mainstream green movement, but you come around to this:

    “People get to buy into the continued illusion of a cost-free existence, or at least to believe that their actions as consumers neutralize these (ecological, environmental, human, animal) costs. The first step, then, is to recognize that the small individual actions that corporations so readily promote are not enough. What is needed is full-scale, infrastructural changes focusing on local production of foods and usable mass transit systems. I believe that such changes can be more easily accomplished than the (Big Oil sponsored) U.S. government would like the average citizen to believe; currently, however, there are simply too many getting rich off the last few drops of cheap oil to redirect their efforts to such a project.”

    which is exactly what mainstream environmentalism is all about. so you may reject some of the people selling you the message, but you’ve bought the message anyhow. (similarly, a proponent of intelligent design may claim not to be a creationist, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one if he really believes in an intelligent designer; a modern-day liberal may claim not to be a socialist, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one if he really wants the state to reassign wealth.) my question was: why believe any of that? where is the evidence that the environmentalist steps you advocated are needed, outside of commercials and UN pronouncements? even in your reply you mention “the moral culpability of the costs of our actions”–why should those decisions be anything but amoral unless we accept the quasi-religious convictions of the environmentalist movement?

    aside: the opening chapters of genesis are metaphorical–the garden of eden is the state of meditative paradise, very similar to nirvana, and the earth is, among other things, the human body. god’s commandment to adam and eve, who represent mankind and the soul respectively, that they should subdue the earth and cultivate it is actually a directive to cultivate the true powers of the human mind. granted, none of this matters if the real meaning of the text has been lost to most modern interpreters, but i have to stick up for genesis at every turn: it’s not a fairy tale for ignorant hicks, but a metaphor locked up tight. at any rate . . .

    a deconstructionist is obligated to deconstruct everything, not just the things he doesn’t like, as a philosopher is obligated to philosophize everything. it’s a definitional question. if there are certain constructs that you prefer to leave intact, how are they any different from other people’s teleological anchors? if you’re not a deconstructionist, how do you explain what appears to be a fetish for deconstruction?

    any preceived boundaries within an ecosystem are illusions–constructs, if you like. the entire earth is a chemical system (indeed, the entire universe is, but as far as i’m aware we’ve proven unable to exert any real influence on any part of the universe more than a few miles above the earth’s crust). all the components of that chemical system affect one another ultimately. environmentalism says “these particular chemical components should be suppressed or destroyed, because they’re damaging the rest of the system.” we cannot do this unless we accept that one particular stage in the continuous flux of the chemical system somehow represents an ideal; we cannot be environmentalists unless we accept that the environment exists for a purpose. which is something i would have imagined you wouldn’t accept, since it requires positing a “center” and longing for a particular “form.” if you aren’t longing for that, why call for localism and mass transit?

    2a) i agree that we do tamper with the environment, and i believe we tamper with it equally whether we ban the use of ddt to save some birds (which ended up causing many, many poor people to die of malaria), sink tires in the ocean that poison it, wreck an oil tanker, plant a garden, hunt a particular species in order to “control” its population, or subsidize ethanol (which drives up food prices and causes rioting in the third world, resulting–quite predictably–in even more environmental damage, albeit of a different type).

    but every organism in the ecosystem “tampers” with it, in the sense that every organism takes certain chemicals into itself and expels certain chemicals into its environment, and every organism builds structures that affect other organisms. why does it make sense to single out our behavior as bad? it seems to me that our actions can only be damaging when they obstruct the lives and happiness of other organisms, but those organisms themselves are trying to obstruct the lives and happiness of other organisms. what’s good for the goose is good for the goose-hunter, i say. so why should there be any inherent “moral culpability” for what we do?

    more to say, but i’m out of time again . . .

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  9. Mike Barrett · April 22, 2008

    also, a quick comment to dave–

    “we” don’t want backwards nations to stay backwards; that’s what environmentalists want. do you remember the environmentalist furor when india developed a cheap car a few months ago?

    *i* would like all ‘backwards’ nations and peoples to be able to pursue their own happiness, as free from the influence of economy-stopping carbon markets, polluting recycling centers, and starvation-inducing ethanol subsidies as they can possibly be. they have just as much right to enter the world’s markets as anyone else does.

    the notion of nations “buying their way out of” the damage they’ve caused to the planet gives the lie to the underlying motivation of modern environmentalism, which is rampant socialism. paying poor countries for the right to do their share of the polluting is absurd on any level–as you mentioned, it doesn’t reduce the overall pollution at all, since the poor countries weren’t polluting as much in the first place; perhaps more problematically, it suggests that there is a particular amount of polluting that is somehow acceptable. but saving the environment was never the aim of the world environmentalist movement, any more than scientific research was the aim of the kaiser willhelm society. the whole thing has been an exercise in getting wealthy countries to give money to the leaders of poor countries. this is why carbon emissions are the current target of the UN, and why china and india may continue to emit as much carbon as they want: there was never any scientific link between atmospheric co2 and anything environmental, but there is a direct link between co2 emissions and industrialization.

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  10. ed biblioklept · April 22, 2008

    I’ll go backwards.

    I don’t single out human behavior as “bad,” in fact, to say this again, it’s no different from any other animal. We deflect the cost of living onto the environment and other creatures. Only we’ve gotten really, really good at it. We’ve gotten really good at not dying, probably too good.

    When I speak of moral culpability, I’m speaking of the (specifically Western/Judeo-Christian) will to an “out” to the fact that we are animals, to a denial of an application of that dominant moral system to anything other than social interaction.
    Perhaps I should choose my words more carefully. You write: “it seems to me that our actions can only be damaging when they obstruct the lives and happiness of other organisms, but those organisms themselves are trying to obstruct the lives and happiness of other organisms.” Yes. This is what I’ve been saying, repeatedly (now) here. It’s not possible to not tamper. Tampering is existence.

    I don’t really know what your point is, but I suspect it has more to do with your contempt for people like me who are currently unhappy with the way we get food and move things. Your argument against these people — “greenists” or “environmentalist” or just average people who wish our consumerist society was not so utterly vacuous — is that they are tampering with what may be a perfectly useful (that is to say, utilitarian) model for energy and agriculture (that is to say, continued reliance on corn-based mass-produced foods, moving those foods via oil-consuming vehicles to homogenized distribution centers to be consumed, etc., is in and of itself a particularly good, valid way of continued human existence…). Parts of argument then rest on the easy assumption (easy to make against someone like me, who you say “fetishizes” deconstruction) that human-caused global warming is greatly exaggerated or even a total myth, that there is enough cheap oil for the rest of the world (China, India, etc. included) to continue living the way we (Americans) do, etc. In short, you argue that everything is fine the way it is, and that “liberal” alarmists are overreacting.

    Michael, if it’s okay for humans to tamper — and it is, and I advocated for it in the post (and also it is unavoidable; again to not tamper is to not live) — why do you have such a problem with the tampering I (vaguely) propose? You couch your cynicism in the easy response: Why not?–which, here, really just means, Why ask? You ask for evidence that people should change the way they live in this country, evidence that you know, if produced for you, would never satisfy you, because you have already decided that you are right and that those who disagree with you are not only wrong, but foolishly duped. However, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s *The Omnivore’s Dilemma*. Highly readable, enjoyable, and an excellent argument, I like it because it concerns the roots of the “environmental problem”–food. Read it or not, I honestly don’t give a fuck about changing your mind.

    Continuing: I’d rather deconstruct your statement: “a deconstructionist is obligated to deconstruct everything, not just the things he doesn’t like, as a philosopher is obligated to philosophize everything” — Obligated by whom? By whose ethical imperative? By what set of standards? I do, however, agree with you. As for the sets of constructs I’m happy to live with, of course they exist, but they are not stable. My family is a construct, but it is only a family by virtue of it being a set of performed actions (as opposed to your boy Bush, who knows that a family is stable, pure, unchanging, and comprised of a man and a woman and their kids).

    And: Genesis is metaphorical? Gee whiz, I never looked at that way. Thanks a mil.

    And back to the start: You accuse me of buying into the very rhetoric that I argue against. How post-modern of you, Mike. Never in a million years would I have decided that I was sick of strip malls and diabetic children and price gouging unless I’d been duped by the UN and some TV commercials. Bravo for pointing out my own hidden weaknesses. I was a fool to buy into the hype that our capitalist-consumerist society was non-sustainable at this rate. In fact, I’m sure that gas prices will stabilize any day now. Right after the summer. Market fluctuates. The terrorists win if I don’t buy a new TV. Etc.

    Point 1: Chicken/egg. But no, the boomers…there were just too many of them, and they came at a time that allowed them to be selfish assholes. So.

    Finally: You implicitly ask why I advocate for large scale infrastructural redesign, when there is no evidence that it is necessary. Now, as I mentioned above, I don’t think any data set, written argument, etc. will satisfy you. I will simply say, then, that I do not think the way we live now, most of us, is the best way to live. Don’t bother deconstructing that statement…I know its biases and logical gaps.

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  11. Mike Barrett · April 22, 2008

    i know you know that genesis is a metaphor. most people sincerely believe that it isn’t. i didn’t say that for you to read, but for others who might be reading this.

    my problem is that you can’t say one thing and then do another. you say, for example, that you don’t single out human behavior as “bad,” but then you conclude by complaining about “strip malls and diabetic children and price gouging” in a generalized way; though you may not like it, this is a statement that human behavior is bad. similarly, you claim not to have a problem with “tampering,” but your original post is a call for a government-led end to tampering (already quoted above), or at least a drastic reduction in tampering as we know it. my problem is that i don’t feel that you (and the others who agree with you) have thought about these things with the consideration they deserve–if you had, it seems to me like you wouldn’t simultaneously advance two opposing viewpoints. so which is it–is consumerism an error to be corrected, or isn’t it? please don’t say something like “it’s not an error because there are no errors, but here’s how i’d correct it.”

    i, for my part, am not in favor of demolishing the earth either. but i would never argue that there is any reason for this other than a general conviction i picked up at public school.

    for what it’s worth, i have read that book, and many, many more on the subject :) i drink only raw milk from local grass-fed cows, i rarely eat meat, and i patronize my local farmer’s market. i try to avoid corn and soy wherever possible, because they’re not things human beings should eat. i’d love workable mass transit. et cetera. but that has nothing to do with actual scientific evidence (well, except the corn and soy part, which is obvious from any honest study of comparative nutrition). which is why i originally asked: why do you believe that stuff about sustainability? where did it come from? why do you even use the word, which has marketing departments and focus groups all over it?

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  12. ed · April 22, 2008

    Huh? I have no idea, at this point, how to even reply to you, as you are so willfully argumentative over the most trivial of points, especially given your last remarks (in which you suggest that mass transit and local foods are good–which was the whole point of my solution in the post). It seems to me that your problem with my whole argument lies in the idea that the government should take steps towards changing the way that we eat and move in this country. Otherwise, I don’t see how myself or anyone else here is being hypocritical; your ideological stance seems disingenuous to me, however, given your own professed habits.
    Buying and owning things in and of itself is not bad, but our economy now is skewed toward consumption, particularly toward the consumption of things that we do not need. Manufactured want.
    You are correct that the word sustainability is part of the rhetoric that I was arguing against. I’m more or less trying to point to something other than the food system we have now, which relies so heavily on oil.
    Finally–and I do mean finally, because, as you are not really responding to any of the counterarguments put forth here–there is no dialog or dialectic at work–I will say that people are not good or bad in and of themselves; they simply perform actions that have good or bad consequences to other people. If people are bad, fine; they’re also good. But that’s a whole other ball of wax that I’m not interested in batting around with you.

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  13. Dave C. · April 22, 2008

    Sustainability, for me, means to live a modest life. Maybe it’s a catchword, but it’s a phrase that could lead us somewhere.

    Is scientific evidence required for this puzzle?

    An economic analysis would be just as useful. Here is mine. Our share of the pie is rapidly vanishing and we should try and get used to that now.

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  14. Pingback: Wendell Berry on Mephistophilis, Limitless Animals, and the End of Cheap Oil « biblioklept

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