The last and the next 20 years

Peter Singer’s 1975 book Animal Liberation is perhaps the seminal text on awakening human consciousness about nonhuman animals. More of a philosophical tract, it presents an even-handed narrative of why animals’ interests should be considered that is neither ‘good’ not ‘bad’ per se. It’s big idea of ‘the greatest good’ is an effective route to ethical behavior, and it resonates with the challenge of how to get people to care about nature, which – if not cast as satire – is one of the most urgent ideas of the last and the next twenty years:

It is easy to see how bleak accounts of the state of the planet can overwhelm people and make them feel hopeless. What is the point of even trying if the world is going down the drain anyway?

To muster public and political support on a scale that matches our environmental challenges, research shows that negative messaging is not the most effective way forward. As a conservation scientist and social marketer, I believe that to make the environment a mainstream concern, conservation discussions should focus less on difficulties. Instead we should highlight the growing list of examples where conservation efforts have benefited species, ecosystems and people living alongside them.

The promise of positive messaging and marketing language to sway greater environmental sh*t-giving is cynical, but here we are. He’s not wrong, though the degree to which the vision of this kind of promotion will necessarily muster the language of commodity (great cause of said looming catastrophic scenarios) to save the Earth makes the pain in my neck throb. It could also make the messages that feel like Coca-Cola ads that much easier to dismiss from familiarity. Optimism in the face of destruction has its limits, and sometimes we need to look at things as they are and act accordingly. Like adults instead of media companies.
Still, Lost & Found is a good idea. We can do worse than trying to invigorate the public with the wonder of natural wonder, as long as they don’t begin to believe too strongly in its resilience. We can lead the water to horses, but can we make them care?

Enhanced Logo Techniques

plantNikeThese embroidered sportswear logos are a good reminder about all the personal space we willingly hand over to corporate advertising, and that we have the ability to take some of it back. Reclaim – hey, we’re into vintage!

The willingness to advertise products and brand loyalties needs some thoughtful push back. Adbusters is still around, but less manifesto and more creativity is what’s called for, not telling people what to think or do – but to think and do. And maybe that’s a contradiction. Maybe those are one and the same. The freedom to do nothing, to not vote, not participate, remains one of our most powerful. But it is also can be powerfully turned against the interests of a free society. The ‘freedom fetish’ itself is a good example of this.

Art is still more powerful than vandalism, but just as threatening to the status quo.

Ecopsychology

I hadn’t checked in with Adbusters in while, and when I did, saw this article on happiness, aka the modern blues:

I don’t get it. I was the first kid on my block to have a Nintendo. I got a car on my 16th birthday. I didn’t have to work a single day in college (unless you count selling homemade bongs at Phish concerts). My grandfather grew up with nothing. He had to drop out of high school during the Depression to help his family get by, earning money shining the shoes of drunks at a local saloon. Why is my generation, one of relative privilege and wealth, experiencing higher rates of depression than any previous generation?

I turned to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard for some illumination on this conundrum. It seems that in the 19th century, for the first time in history, humans began to require observable proof of happiness. According to Baudrillard, happiness became something that had to be measurable in terms of material gain, something that would be evident to the eye. But I’m surrounded by stuff and yet I’m still glum. At my age, my grandfather had fewer possessions and more happiness. So what do you make of that, Mr. Baudrillard?

Nothing shocking here, especially right here. And the I-never-had-to-work-for-anything glumness is a bit self-indulgent. But the point about Baudrillard becoming somewhat passé is a good sign, I think. As this incomplete notion regarding material happiness increasingly slips into the common experience, people moving beyond it becomes more the norm. We’re at a strange stage in this evolution, that will be much clearer to look back on than it is to experience first-hand and make sense of. But corners are being turned, and this isn’t to sound overly hopeful or optimistic – it’s just a consequence of overconsumption. Even our tendency to want/have/own/possess lurches back toward balance. Thank your animal nature for rejecting your bourgeois tendencies.