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JayB

Ruminations on the "Green Bubble"

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From 'The New Republic'...tee hee...

 

"Green had moved beyond politics. Gestures that were once mundane--bringing your own grocery bags to the store, shopping for secondhand clothes, taking the subway--were suddenly infused with grand significance. Actions like screwing in light bulbs, inflating tires, and weatherizing windows gained fresh urgency. A new generation of urban hipsters, led by Colin Beavan, a charismatic writer in Manhattan who had branded himself "No Impact Man," proselytized the virtues of downscaling--dumpster-diving, thrift-store shopping, and trading in one's beater car for a beater bike--while suburban matrons proudly clutched copies of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and came to see the purchase of each $4 heirloom tomato at the farmer's market as an act of virtue....

 

Of course, environmentalism itself has not disappeared. Earth Day was celebrated last week, magazines and marketers continue to use green to sell to upscale audiences, and legislation to cap carbon emissions, albeit heavily watered-down, could still pass Congress. But the cultural moment marked by the ubiquity of green self-help, apocalypse talk, and cheery utopianism has passed. It is tempting to reduce this retrenchment to economic pressures alone, with concrete short-term concerns trumping more abstract worries about the future. But a closer look at the causes of the green bubble reveals a more complicated story, not just about the nature of environmentalism but about modern American life itself.

 

At the same time that liberal professionals were feeling estranged politically, they were also feeling alienated personally and socially. For perhaps the first time in history, according to New York University sociologist Dalton Conley's new book, Elsewhere, U.S.A., American elites were working longer hours than the poor. They were making more money, but the price they paid was longer commutes, the commodification of everything (from private schools to bottled water), and less time for themselves, their families, and their friends. Inequality skyrocketed during the 1990s, resulting both in new affluence for the wealthiest 20 percent and in heightened social anxiety. In these conditions, upper-middle-class liberals started questioning and resenting hyper-materialism, even while enjoying the status and comfort it offered.

 

Little surprise, then, that they would start buying a whole new class of products to demonstrate their ecological concern. Green consumption became what sociologists call "positional consumption"--consumption that distinguishes one as elite--and few things were more ecopositional than the Toyota Prius, whose advantage over other hybrid cars was its distinctive look. A 2007 survey that appeared in The New York Times found that more Prius owners (57 percent) said they bought the car because it "makes a statement about me" than because of its better gas mileage (36 percent), lower emissions (25 percent), or new technology (7 percent). Prius owners, the Times concluded, "want everyone to know they are driving a hybrid." The status effects were so powerful that, by early 2009, Honda's new Insight Hybrid had been reshaped to look like the triangular Prius.

 

Of course, for many greens, healing required more than a new kind of consumption, however virtuous. In The New York Times Magazine's 2008 Earth Day issue, Michael Pollan argued that climate change was at bottom a crisis of lifestyle and personal character--"the sum of countless little everyday choices"--and suggested that individual actions, such as planting backyard gardens, might ultimately be more important than government action to repair the environment. Pollan half-acknowledged that growing produce in your backyard was ecologically irrelevant, but "there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden," he wrote. "[Y]ou will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen."

 

...It's easy enough to point out the insignificance of planting a garden, buying fewer clothes, or using fluorescent bulbs. After all, we can't escape the fact that we depend on an infrastructure--roads, buildings, sewage systems, power plants, electrical grids, etc.--that requires huge quantities of fossil fuels. But the ecological irrelevance of these practices was beside the point. What downscalers offered was not a better way to reduce emissions, but rather, a way to reduce guilt. In 2007, we asked environmentalists in focus groups about green consumption. None thought that consuming green would do much of anything to address a huge challenge like global warming. They did it anyway, they said, because it made them feel better.

 

...Against nostalgic accounts like Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, most social-change movements are started and directed by the relatively affluent and well-educated, from the preacher-led civil rights movement to modern feminism to gay rights. The problem is not that most greens are elites, per se, but rather that too few of them acknowledge the material basis for their ecological concern and that too many reject the modern project of expanding prosperity altogether...

 

There are, to be sure, negative and disorienting aspects of modern life: pollution, alienation, loneliness, inequality, and the proliferation of choices. But the truth is that, while we often talk of our desire for greater community and interconnectedness, we choose ever more privacy, autonomy, and personal freedom. Few of even the most ardent greens could seriously imagine subsuming their individual identities to a pre-agrarian tribe, or abandoning their office jobs for a life of hard agricultural labor. The retreat from older forms of community, and the move toward greater individuation, is universal and largely positive. Colin Beavan and Michael Pollan lament, respectively, the loss of community and the loss of connection between humans and the land. But both choose to live alone with their families in cities, not on agricultural communes, and both express themselves as unique thinkers and writers.

 

Nonetheless, it has become an article of faith among many greens that the global poor are happier with less and must be shielded from the horrors of overconsumption and economic development--never mind the realities of infant mortality, treatable disease, short life expectancies, and grinding agrarian poverty. The convenient and ancient view among elites that the poor are actually spiritually rich, and the exaggeration of insignificant gestures like recycling and buying new lightbulbs, are both motivated by the cognitive dissonance created by simultaneously believing that not all seven billion humans on earth can "live like we live" and, consciously or unconsciously, knowing that we are unwilling to give up our high standard of living. This is the split "between what you think and what you do" to which Pollan refers, and it should, perhaps, come as no surprise that so many educated liberals, living at the upper end of a social hierarchy that was becoming ever more stratified, should find the remedies that Pollan and Beavan offer so compelling. But, while planting a backyard garden may help heal the eco-anxieties of affluent greens, it will do little to heal the planet or resolve the larger social contradictions that it purports to address...."

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Even your post is green! 8 point type can save paper if choose to print it out, and saves screen space, thus reducing monitor output. Multiply this time the billions of monitors displaying CC.com, and you've just saved the planet.

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"But, while planting a backyard garden may help heal the eco-anxieties of affluent greens, it will do little to heal the planet or resolve the larger social contradictions that it purports to address...."

 

...same as it ever was...

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i haven't read the 8 point text, but economy of conagra etc is to farm up genetic mutations and pump them full of chemical fertilizers and ship them halfway across the country. have a garden in your backyard isn't going necessarily change the world, but i would feel better about it than driving a prius.

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The New York Times found that more Prius owners (57 percent) said they bought the car because it "makes a statement about me" than because of its better gas mileage (36 percent), lower emissions (25 percent), or new technology (7 percent). Prius owners, the Times concluded, "want everyone to know they are driving a hybrid."

 

Anyone else starting to think that Prius drivers are replacing BMW drivers as the biggest a-holes on the road? I feel like those two are now in a dead heat in terms of which drivers get upset about being stuck behind a bicyclist and end up driving into oncoming traffic to try to get around them.

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Nonetheless, it has become an article of faith among many greens that the global poor are happier with less and must be shielded from the horrors of overconsumption and economic development--never mind the realities of infant mortality, treatable disease, short life expectancies, and grinding agrarian poverty. The convenient and ancient view among elites that the poor are actually spiritually rich, and the exaggeration of insignificant gestures like recycling and buying new lightbulbs, are both motivated by the cognitive dissonance created by simultaneously believing that not all seven billion humans on earth can "live like we live" and, consciously or unconsciously, knowing that we are unwilling to give up our high standard of living. This is the split "between what you think and what you do" to which Pollan refers, and it should, perhaps, come as no surprise that so many educated liberals, living at the upper end of a social hierarchy that was becoming ever more stratified, should find the remedies that Pollan and Beavan offer so compelling. But, while planting a backyard garden may help heal the eco-anxieties of affluent greens, it will do little to heal the planet or resolve the larger social contradictions that it purports to address...."[/size][/i]

 

Ha! As if the global poor are neither capable of or haven't been articulating their own resistances to capitalist globalization in every corner of the planet for the last fifteen years. Where have you been?

Edited by prole

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i haven't read the 8 point text, but economy of conagra etc is to farm up genetic mutations and pump them full of chemical fertilizers and ship them halfway across the country. have a garden in your backyard isn't going necessarily change the world, but i would feel better about it than driving a prius.

 

Yeah, I also disagree that having a garden is "irrelevant," if that means that you're not buying food grown industrially, shipped halfway across the world, covered in pesticides, etc. etc. Not to mention the fact that if having a garden actually induces Americans to start eating real vegetables again.... This could be the END of diabetes and heart disease!!!!!! [/hyperbole] Seriously, though, it would be at least a step in the right direction.

 

Anyone know of any studies of whether people with Priuses drive more because their cars are more efficient? (Same way people take more risks when safety measures are improved in cars/whatever.)

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Nonetheless, it has become an article of faith among many greens that the global poor are happier with less and must be shielded from the horrors of overconsumption and economic development--never mind the realities of infant mortality, treatable disease, short life expectancies, and grinding agrarian poverty. The convenient and ancient view among elites that the poor are actually spiritually rich, and the exaggeration of insignificant gestures like recycling and buying new lightbulbs, are both motivated by the cognitive dissonance created by simultaneously believing that not all seven billion humans on earth can "live like we live" and, consciously or unconsciously, knowing that we are unwilling to give up our high standard of living. This is the split "between what you think and what you do" to which Pollan refers, and it should, perhaps, come as no surprise that so many educated liberals, living at the upper end of a social hierarchy that was becoming ever more stratified, should find the remedies that Pollan and Beavan offer so compelling. But, while planting a backyard garden may help heal the eco-anxieties of affluent greens, it will do little to heal the planet or resolve the larger social contradictions that it purports to address...."[/size][/i]

 

Ha! As if the global poor are neither capable of or haven't been articulating their own resistances to capitalist globalization in every corner of the planet. Where have you been for the last ten years?

 

Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

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[speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

it only gets better cuz it's so real world descriptive. i can't tell you how many hippie types i run across who try to keep GM foods out of the hands of the starving.

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Since you mentioned Michael Pollan, here's your corn-fed bubble. Gonna be messy when that pops, Mr. Creosote...

 

 

US obesity problem 'intensifies'

 

Obesity rates in the US have surged over the last year, a report shows.

 

The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found adult obesity rates rose in 23 of the 50 states, but fell in none.

 

In addition, the percentage of obese and overweight children is at or above 30% in 30 states.

 

The report warns widespread obesity is fuelling rates of chronic disease, and is responsible for a large, and growing chunk of domestic healthcare costs.

 

Obesity is linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

 

Dr Jeff Levi, TFAH executive director, said: "Our health care costs have grown along with our waist lines.

 

"The obesity epidemic is a big contributor to the skyrocketing health care costs in the US.

 

"How are we going to compete with the rest of the world if our economy and workforce are weighed down by bad health?"

 

The US government has set a target of cutting obesity rates in all 50 states to 15% by next year.

 

However, the report said this target was certain to be missed.

 

Fattest state

 

For the fifth year in a row, Mississippi had the highest rate of adult obesity at 32.5%. Three other states - West Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee - also had adult obesity rates in excess of 30%.

 

In just one state - Colorado - was the adult obesity rate below 20%.

 

In 1991, no state had an adult obesity rate above 20%, and in 1980 the national average for adult obesity was 15%.

 

Mississippi also had the highest rate of obese and overweight children (ages 10 to 17) at 44.4%. Minnesota and Utah had the lowest rate at 23.1%.

 

Childhood obesity rates in the US have more than tripled since 1980.

 

The report warns that the current economic crisis could exacerbate the obesity epidemic by driving up food prices, particularly for nutritious foods.

 

In addition, it blames increased rates of depression, anxiety and stress for fuelling unhealthy living.

 

A recent analysis commissioned by TFAH found that the Baby Boomer generation has a higher rate of obesity compared with previous generations.

 

This suggests that the percentage of obese adults aged 65 and older could soon increase significantly.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8129184.stm

 

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are we still paying companies to dump crops?

 

my main gripe with the engineered crops is the associated litigation and business practices of the companies engineering them. i.e. paying off 3rd world countries to grow only a single crop.

 

i.e. polluting the fields of farmers who choose not to buy and grow their seeds and then sueing them for "stealing" their product.

 

etc.

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Nonetheless, it has become an article of faith among many greens that the global poor are happier with less and must be shielded from the horrors of overconsumption and economic development--never mind the realities of infant mortality, treatable disease, short life expectancies, and grinding agrarian poverty. The convenient and ancient view among elites that the poor are actually spiritually rich, and the exaggeration of insignificant gestures like recycling and buying new lightbulbs, are both motivated by the cognitive dissonance created by simultaneously believing that not all seven billion humans on earth can "live like we live" and, consciously or unconsciously, knowing that we are unwilling to give up our high standard of living. This is the split "between what you think and what you do" to which Pollan refers, and it should, perhaps, come as no surprise that so many educated liberals, living at the upper end of a social hierarchy that was becoming ever more stratified, should find the remedies that Pollan and Beavan offer so compelling. But, while planting a backyard garden may help heal the eco-anxieties of affluent greens, it will do little to heal the planet or resolve the larger social contradictions that it purports to address...."[/size][/i]

 

Ha! As if the global poor are neither capable of or haven't been articulating their own resistances to capitalist globalization in every corner of the planet. Where have you been for the last ten years?

 

Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

Or in the case of Prole... confiscating grain from peasants to sell below market price to show how his ideology "works"

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Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

It's funny, except it's not true. People in Africa are not starving because they are somehow incapable of growing their own food, or because the land is recently unfit for agriculture. It's a policy problem of how their governments are run. They are kept in extreme poverty by warlord dictators, by Western trade policies that force them to grow cash crops rather than their own food and then prevent them from making a sustainable amount of money doing so (see: coffee, cacao), and by their constant refugee status as inter-tribal wars force them to flee from their homes.

 

Besides which, if Africa is so impoverished, why would the solution be highly a commercialized agriculture program where the company (Monsanto, etc.) owns the "rights" to the cultivars, and requires that farmers 1) pay a lot for the specialty seeds, 2) pay a lot more for the required pesticides/whatever, and 3) buy new seeds every year, because it is illegal to save seeds from the plants they've grown?

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Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

A comforting mythology for you to be sure. Reality is rather more complicated though:

 

peru-strike-7-9-08.jpg

 

xin_36202050117063122702924.jpg

 

080525-IndonesiaJakartaFuelProtest-01.jpg

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Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

A comforting mythology for you to be sure. Reality is rather more complicated though:

 

peru-strike-7-9-08.jpg

 

xin_36202050117063122702924.jpg

 

080525-IndonesiaJakartaFuelProtest-01.jpg

 

Where's the photo of you protesting your student loans?

 

:wave:

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what would lao tsu say?

 

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.

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Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

A comforting mythology for you to be sure. Reality is rather more complicated though:

 

peru-strike-7-9-08.jpg

 

xin_36202050117063122702924.jpg

 

080525-IndonesiaJakartaFuelProtest-01.jpg

 

Complicated. Hmmm - yes. The "march, chant, confiscate, nationalize, eliminate competition and trade" development model has certainly complicated the lives of folks who have embraced it or had it imposed on them.

 

Which one's your favorite at the moment? Mine's Zimbabwe.

 

 

 

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African farmers are skilled and knowledgeable and are responsible for the vast majority of agricultural innovation that has succeeded in Africa. The low levels of productivity that are often cited in reference to African agriculture are the result of poverty, displacement, war, colonialism, and environmental challenges. Africa’s small farmers do not need the false promises of genetic engineering; they need concrete measures that will attack the root causes of poverty and enable them to farm according to their capabilities.

 

http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/africa-gmo-2002-en.pdf

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Complicated. Hmmm - yes. The "march, chant, confiscate, nationalize, eliminate competition and trade" development model has certainly complicated the lives of folks who have embraced it or had it imposed on them.

 

Wait, aren't these the same people you're trying to convince us are welcoming your neoliberal development model? Bunch of ingrates are they? It's just so hard to find good help these days.

 

 

 

 

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Speaking of "Resistance"...

 

Haha.jpg

 

Gets better every time....

 

It's funny, except it's not true. People in Africa are not starving because they are somehow incapable of growing their own food, or because the land is recently unfit for agriculture. It's a policy problem of how their governments are run. They are kept in extreme poverty by warlord dictators, by Western trade policies that force them to grow cash crops rather than their own food and then prevent them from making a sustainable amount of money doing so (see: coffee, cacao), and by their constant refugee status as inter-tribal wars force them to flee from their homes.

 

Besides which, if Africa is so impoverished, why would the solution be highly a commercialized agriculture program where the company (Monsanto, etc.) owns the "rights" to the cultivars, and requires that farmers 1) pay a lot for the specialty seeds, 2) pay a lot more for the required pesticides/whatever, and 3) buy new seeds every year, because it is illegal to save seeds from the plants they've grown?

 

People in Africa are starving because they can't generate sufficient net output to exchange for the money or goods necessary to lift themselves above subsistence poverty.

 

The people of Taiwan, for example, manage to eat just fine, despite the fact that virtually none of their output is composed of edible foodstuffs. Ditto for the folks in Singapore. They get their food the same way that we get our flat-screen TV's - despite the fact that virtually none are produced here. This happens as a result of the same mechanism that you use to feed yourself, despite the fact that you don't have a cattle ranching operation, acres of corn, rice, beans, a brewery, a cannery, a dairy, etc in you backyard. You sell what you do produce for cash, then exchange the cash for all of the things that you can't make yourself.

 

The solution for Africa would be to concentrate on exploiting whatever comparative advantages they have that generate the most net income for them, and using the proceeds to buy everything else. That might be anything from whisking busloads of elderly westerners past a pack of hyenas in an air-conditioned bus, to assembling widgets, to monetizing the guilt of first-world activists by selling them overpriced trinkets in Bono endorsed kiosks next to the Hot Topic store at the mall...to highly mechanized, fossil-fuel intensive production of GMO crops. Completely depends on an infinite variety of local circumstances that are constantly changing and can't be known, much less understood and effectively harnessed by any centralized authority.

 

This fundamental oversight, when combined with tariff and subsidy laden trade and agricultural policies that make it next to next to impossible for the folks in Africa to compete even in the agricultural/industrial arenas where they do have an advantage over the rest of the world. Layer political models that concentrate economic and political power in a centralized government that change the stakes of political change from tending to the business of the state to personally commanding all of the resources in the state on top of everything else and voila...Hobbesian nightmare of staggering proportions. Toss in massive amounts of fungible aid that can be easily confiscated and re-sold if you want to really get the downward spiral swirling.

 

 

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People in Africa are starving because they can't generate sufficient net output to exchange for the money or goods necessary to lift themselves above subsistence poverty.

 

plus they don't have the $ to buy a tv. one wonders how Africans ever survived before the world economy. they must have been in continual subsistence starvation, which I guess is different than actual starvation.

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African farmers are skilled and knowledgeable and are responsible for the vast majority of agricultural innovation that has succeeded in Africa. The low levels of productivity that are often cited in reference to African agriculture are the result of poverty, displacement, war, colonialism, and environmental challenges. Africa’s small farmers do not need the false promises of genetic engineering; they need concrete measures that will attack the root causes of poverty and enable them to farm according to their capabilities.

 

 

 

http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/africa-gmo-2002-en.pdf

 

Quite the circular non-explanation there. Poverty and war cause...poverty and war.

 

Ending agricultural subsidies and eliminating tariffs that make it next to impossible for them to sell the stuff that they're good at growing - whether that turns out to be GMO crops or organic, GMO-free dreadlock-delousing paste - in the markets where they can secure the highest prices for them would be much more helpful than a set of cloistered first-world activists trying to make these choices for them.

 

 

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