Eco-Chic: Connecting Ethical, Sustainable and Elite Consumption
As anthropologist Adam Fish observes:
Eco-chic, like many other socio-cultural manifestations of neoliberalism is rife with contradiction. The fundamental contradiction being that it is a social justice movement within consumer capitalism. The producers of eco-chic goods and experiences are structured by capitalism’s profit motive. Likewise consumers of eco-chic goods and experiences are motivated by ideals that try to transcend or correct the ecological or deleterious human impacts of capitalism. Thus both producer and consumer of eco-chic are caught in a contradiction between their social justice drives and their suspension in the logic of neoliberalism.
It’s a contradiction made all the more perverse when the eco-chic lifestyle is adopted by the rich and famous who then become green celebrities. But even as a guiding philosophy for commoners, it just doesn’t square. The problem with the eco-chic lifestyle, Fish asserts, is that it is a massive contradiction
between doing good and doing well, being ecologically sensitive while being hedonistic, being trendy while being independent, and being a creative producer while also being a conscious consumer. These contradictions don’t fly.
Most media coverage has either chronicled what Wired in 2006 called the “Rise of the Neo-Greens” or celebrated the eco-chic lifestyle. But I’m not aware of any critiques of the movement put forward in places like Harper’s or Mother Jones magazine, whose readers might be considered a prime eco-chic demographic.
It’s time someone with literary and intellectual chops explored the eco-chic contradictions that Fish lays out, and the implications for environmentalism as a sustainable, politically relevant movement. Harpers’s and Mother Jones each has a stable of talented writers up to the task.
Just for kicks, here’s my revisions to the opening paragraph in this Climate Progress post:
Another week, another New York Times article Joe Romm post on extreme weather that fails to stretches climate science to simplistically connect the dots to global warming for the public. The NYT Romm blew the Arizona wildfire story. They He blew the Dust Bowl story.
And now, “one of the most influential global-warming blogs on the Internet” (according to Time magazine) has blown the Southwestern drought story. As Romm has so often reminded us, the media is remiss when it doesn’t connect disasters such as Australian wildfires and Russian heat waves to global warming. (The same goes for Arab revolts.) So, predictably perturbed at this NYT story, Romm titles his post:
NY Times Asks Why “Horrible” U.S. Drought “Has Come on Extra Hot and extra Early.” Their Answer is…La Nina, Of Course!”
Well, actually, that’s what NOAA’s David Miskus says in the NYT story:
A strong La NiÃ±a shut off the southern pipeline of moisture.
The drought was caused in part by La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which altered the main storm track across North America, helping to steer storms across the northern tier, leaving southern areas desperate for rain. Although La Nina has waned, there are increasing signs that it may redevelop this fall or winter, according to the latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.
But if you absolutely, positively must mention global warming when discussing the Southwestern drought, Freedman shows us how to do it in a responsible fashion, in his next passage (my emphasis):
However, La Nina wasn’t the only force behind the drought, says [Marty] Hoerling, who leads a group of climate change attribution sleuths at NOAA. For now, though, the co-conspirators remain unknown. Although climate science research shows that droughts are likely to become more intense and more frequent in a warming world, particularly in the Southwestern US, observational evidence does not yet show clear trends in drought conditions in the U.S. to date.
Hoerling says his quick analysis led him to conclude that climate change has not played a major role in this event. “This is not a climate change drought by all indications,” he said, adding that this view does not in any way refute the fact that global warming is occurring, either.
Joe Romm, for all his blustery criticism of journalism, could take some pointers from an actual climate journalist like Freedman.
No doubt the curtain on Murchoch’s News International operations will be pulled back further in the coming days and weeks, revealing much more ugliness. The questions is, will it spur a larger reassessment of British journalistic culture, the kind that prompted this recent sheepish admission by one columnist:
The truth is that for all its adversarial and investigatory strengths ““ which are considerable ““ British political journalism is basically a club to which politicians and journalists both belong. There is a degree of cosy camaraderie between the press and the governing class in this country which my American journalist friends find startling.
That cozy camaraderie was deconstructed by former BBC Sarah Mukherjee in this 2010 talk. In the UK, she said,
you have the political class and the media class, which are essentially the same thing. They all went to the same schools, they all went to the same places. They all know each other, have known each other since university days, or earlier”¦[they're] locked into some mutually destructive embrace.
That’s now quite obvious for all to see.