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The Neo-Green Contradictions

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 12, 2011 11:19 PM


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Because Ed Abbey and David Foster Wallace are no longer around, I'm nominating Charles Bowden to attend this upcoming conference sponsored by the European Science Foundation:

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.

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