“Green Consumption is Still Consumption”
I’ve never taken an economics class, but I’m considering taking one after reading about political economy in this book. We spoke last week about the benefits of selling a product as “better for the environment” or “green” and the question arose.. Is it bad for businesses to benefit from creating an illusion of concern for the environment when their only genuine concern is increasing profits? Or is it good that businesses can be driven to make decisions that benefit the environment, regardless of their motives? Greenwashing (the exaggerated or false marketing of a product, good, or service as environmentally friendly) runs rampant.
The points listed below are Robbins et al’s summary of the (frustrating) factors that drive business to failure in reducing carbon emissions:
– Companies/firms must strive for increasing consumption levels
– Companies/firms must strive to keep production costs low
– The carbon cycle is marked by extreme disconnections between sources and impacts
– Uneven economic development (as its name suggests) is also marked by disconnections between sources and impacts
– Those who have the most power to change the market (the affluent, generally) are far removed form those who are going to bear the brunt of the negative effects of climate change (the poor)
When I was young, my family went to see the Sequoia National Park where I was astounded by the size of the 2000 year old trees. I understand people’s commitment to individual trees. But when I think of the amount of deforestation that occurs worldwide, I feel a bit silly caring so much about the tree in my own front yard. The authors of this book do a nice job recognizing the sentimentality people have for trees as well as the large scale destruction of forests. There is a linear relationship between loss of tree cover in countries and their population growth rates, there are some interesting graphics in the book about these rates, and this concept ties in nicely with the I = PAT formula. As population increases, so does the impact exerted on the land. I really enjoyed the part about ecosystem services and the future of trees. The “benefits that an organic system creates through its function, including food resources, clean air or water, pollination, carbon sequestration, energy, and nutrient cycling” ought to be a central focus (I think) as we look for the most powerful ways to convince people of the importance of conserving ecosystems. In another class we’ve been discussing the incredible value of coral reefs, so that’s the first thing that pops to my mind – but a well functioning or “healthy” ecosystem (whatever that means) has a lot of benefits to offer humans.
Environmental Solution? Wildlife Friendly Beef and Wool
I am fascinated by the intersection of people and wildlife and this section (about environmentalists and ranchers finding common ground in the mission of avoiding development in areas of the Rocky Mountain Northwest) was really interesting to me.
Ranchers can receive tax breaks from the government for not subdividing and selling off their land as well as stamps/special labeling/certification from the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network for using “wildlife friendly” techniques of ranch management. (Some people use electric fencing, guard dogs, and even guard llamas!) The techniques aren’t perfect, but I suppose the losses ranchers experience can be mitigated if their “wildlife friendly” label helps them sell more.