Wednesday, May 05, 2010

the classism, sexism and racism of (some) environmentalism

I've heard a mountain of disdain for people who shop at Walmart, and buckets of contempt for poor people who breed in this world of over-consumption. All the pressure to change the way we live so as to tread more gently on the earth seems to comes down squarely on the backs of the poor, the brown, and the female. But the truth is, the real things we need to change the system have little to do with the average family's commitment to "reduce, reuse, recycle".

You can't look at a tiny slice of the system, the slice of the system with the least ability to change the system, and pin all the responsibility on that slice. You have to look at the system as a whole.

For example, rage all you want about the Walmartification of the world, but are you screaming just as loud about the depressed wages that make Walmart's cheap goods the only way to feed and clothe a family with less than the median income? You gan grouse all you want about obesity and poor eating habits, are you also looking at the way those same low wages that make Walmart attractive also make a virtuous diet of locally sourced organic meats and produce a possibility? When whinging about overpopulation do you stop and think that those brown women in poor countries who "just need to be taught about family planning" are leaving a miniscule carbon footprint compared to your comfortable first world life?

I prefer my environmentalism without the stank of classism, racism, sexism and outright ignorance that I see coming from most faugressive whingebots. I think the world would be a much better place if manufacturers were required to to build end-of-life usage into their products and if companies like Halliburton and BP had to shell out the extra 500K in order to avoid damaging the entire gulf coast in a massive oil spill. I think a better way to combat overconsumption is to require living wages for workers both here and abroad. If things are more expensive, people will buy less of them. And if people make more money, they can afford to buy better goods.

You can keep recycling and composting and doing whatever it is you do to make the world a greener place, but you should probably recognize that your willingness to do the work of sorting and rinsing and hauling (or putting that work off onto your female sig. other) makes it easier for companies to avoid taking responsibility. You've just performed free labor for whoever you buy your shit from. I'd prefer to see people paid living wages or better to sort our recycling. It's a valuable job, and much like child rearing, we should pay well for it.

I know that it makes you feel a wee bit better to do something, anything. And I know that we all love to be a wee bit condescending whenever we can (cause you all know I've been doing my best snob dance about Obama's decision to allow offshore drilling in the wake of the oil slick tragedy) but your condescension is perhaps a wee bit misplaced when you level it at those who already occupy the bottom of society. And it's certainly not going to actually fix the problems.

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