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Across former meadows, rippling plumes of heat levitate above sticky carpets of black asphalt rolled out as patchwork in front of chain stores standing infinitely shoulder-to-shoulder. Their slightly faded Tupperware claddings are mediated by painted courses of concrete block and punctuated by glazed doors whose scarred hand-pulls open to a fluorescent parallel universe selling everything television has to offer. Inside, chrome and gold flicker like Christmas above a sea of manicured marble tiles that appear to nourish the roots of dubious ficus trees whose bark and leaves blur the boundary between life and a plasticized version of it. Fantasmatic arrays of street culture, sex, food, nature, sports, alcohol, and music are available for the commodified self where this season’s lifestyles are on sale, prepackaged and shrink-wrapped. 11. Improving Consumption And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!” –Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas  Ecoconsumerism Aisle 14: Juice and Soft Drinks—-regiments of jellybean bottles bask under a fluorescent sun. Generously labeled “All Natural ,” they could easily be described as something much different : rehydrated food products with heavily processed syrups and stabilizers packaged in petro-plastic containers, wrapped in labels secured with toxic adhesives, printed with volatile ink compounds, and bounced many miles across the country above the wheels of multiple fossil-fuel-burning vehicles. (One study reports that a third of total energy input for food is mobilized to create sweets, snacks, and drinks with little nutritional value.)1 Perhaps “natural” says less about the colored liquid and more about how we’d prefer to relate to the food we consume. Is it a yearning to pour something down our throats that is more grounded, stable, and pure for our supposedly polluted bodies ? Or perhaps a momentary escape from our hectic and sometimes frustrating day-to-day grind? A teeny tiny revolt against the hypermanufactured landscape surrounding us? In any case, “natural” appears to have deep-seated roots in our psyche and the concept has attracted the most eager of promoters who happen to have enjoyed notable success in translating “natural” into “cha-ching.” And if “natural” isn’t enough to get your wallet out, perhaps “sustainable,” “green,” “organic,” “fair trade,” or “local” will do the trick—the buzzwords have become so ubiquitous that they now refer to anything and nothing.2 Builders label luxurious kitchen and bath remodels, costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, “sustainable” when they veneer the cabinets with bamboo. Auto-show cars receive a green stamp of approval if their seat cushions contain soy-based foam. In fact, today we can purchase almost anything with ecological clearance , so long as we’re prepared to lay down a few extra dollars for our conscience. The Future of Environmentalism  The green marketing trend began in earnest during the 1970s. Indeed, some manufacturers developed new product lines and manufacturing processes much to the benefit of the planet. However , others simply relabeled, rebranded, and shipped the same products with green halos above their shiny new packaging, perhaps with a higher price tag, too.3 The organized assault of green marketing screams aloud from even the most remote corners of our superstores, coaxing us to buy green, buy more. These campaigns rely not only on a highly stylized concept of nature but also on a consumer class that is unaware of the system-wide implications of mass consumption, or is at least willing to suspend such knowledge upon passing through the doors of their favorite shopping centers. Manufacturers expect us to believe two things: First, that ecofriendly qualities are measurable and objective. And second, that green products have a neutral or even beneficial impact on the greater environment. Both are falsities. Sure, there’s a patchwork of standards for ecolabeled products but the handing out of green halos is fraught with ambiguity and uncertainty. For instance, a so-called biodegradable diaper will require eons to degrade when entombed within the compacted layers of a landfill without oxygen or sunlight. It may also require more energy to manufacture than a traditional disposable diaper or decompose into undesirable byproducts. The diaper wars of the 1990s between commercial backers of disposable plastic diapers and reusable cloth diapers left consumers with a choice between expanding landfills or releasing detergents into waterways. There’s still no consensus...


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MARC Record
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