Luxury, re-imagined

At the risk of sounding like some past (and very likely coming to screen near you in the adjacent soon) Mercedes Benz and/or other brand advertisement, the luxury of being in a position to do something about climate change is also a handy rationale to not do that something. Worry over the future of polluting industries and their investors as equal to concerns about the planet implies a false choice. And we love those:

Sorry, but there is no Trump Light, or Trump without the fill-in-this-blank. It’s only a sleep walk into fascism, sorry. Listen to what they run on. Banning Beloved would only be a starting place.

Meanwhile in Scotland, some of our betters are engaged in the COP26 think-scussions:

Humm recently shifted Eleven Madison Park from an omnivore’s menu to one focused on plants, a change that took effect this summer after his restaurant reopened from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Hearst has focused much of her energy on reducing waste in the New York design house that bears her name, as well as at Chloe, the Paris-based luxury firm where she is creative director. In October, Chloe became a certified B Corporation, which means it meets independent standards for environmental and social performance, as well as transparency.

“It’s not only about climate change, but it’s also about what does luxury mean,” Humm says about their upcoming conversation in Glasgow. “I think we both realize that, you know, not everyone — or only a few people — have access to our restaurant or Gabriela’s clothes. But we do have these incredible resources and this incredible platform that people are actually paying attention to.”

“Some of the ideas of luxury are old ideas that have to be refreshed,” Humm continues. “For example, we are still celebrating caviar as a luxury ingredient … and there is nothing luxurious about caviar. It’s farm-raised. It’s flown in. It’s not rare at all. And it doesn’t even taste good. This is an old idea.”

A future is not THE future. Reckoning with the many complications of the actual problem of a warming planet caused by out-of-control carbon emissions will re-define luxury, and perhaps even put the concept out to pasture. We will realize that enjoying privations is not luxury but sociopathy. Basking in a scarce resource – whether it be time, security, clean water, or perceived reasonableness – has to be treated as wasteful, if not immoral. Like shrugging before you give your vote to a soft authoritarian. That’s a luxury you can’t afford.

Zero the Carbon

A colleague at Flagpole pointed me to this, a partially, if unintentionally, hilarious article in the ATL newspaper about a shopping district billing itself as the nation’s first carbon-neutral zone. Excellent. A local firm is auditing the businesses for the their carbon footprint to tell them how much they should pay in off-sets to 1)feel better about it and 2) use the good feeling to advertise the district so that shoppers can feel better about spending money there. Rinse, repeat.

While this could be seen as the latest chapter in the annals of green marketing — another emission in all the talk about global warming — there’s actually substance behind the boast.

Is there ever. It’s paper-like, six inches by two-and-a-half.

The carbon-free zone is the result of a pilot project engineered by a local environmental company — an intricate transaction linking 18 merchants, a trading exchange in Chicago, a charitable foundation in Atlanta and thousands of acres of forest in rural Georgia.

Okay, so the landlord, seeing the genius of the plan, actually takes up paying for the audits if the tenants will pay their own offsets. Fair enough. But you see where this is going, right? No? Okay, try this.

Sandor[father-in-law of the auditing company founder] started the Chicago Climate Exchange, a market where carbon credits and offsets are traded like pork belly futures in the interest of fighting climate change through capitalism. Time magazine called him “the father of carbon trading.”

So… will off-sets allow us to just put our carbon-conscience on the credit card and otherwise continue with our as-you-were sets of priorities? It sort of answers itself. The reporter, before providing some glorious quotes from the business owners, does site the precedent of Papal Indulgences as a reasonably-related precursor. But… those quotes:

“The carbon thing wasn’t the issue. People were more concerned about the cost,” says Brian Jolly of Half-Moon Outfitters, a store on North Highland.

The price of the offsets ranged from $10 a year for Lulu Blue, a petite sweet shop, to $600 for Highland Tap, a steakhouse. Restaurants inevitably leave a larger carbon footprint with their sizable staffs and higher utility use.

“I’m the biggest polluter over here,” says the Tap’s general manager, Ron Haynes, who commutes 30 miles from Peachtree City [emphasis mine] and employs 35 people.

He’s still unsure whether his check bought anything more than a fuzzy feeling of virtue.

“It sort of made sense to me when they explained it,” he says. “But I do wonder what I’m doing to curb global warming. It feels like I’m just spending money to make up for the damage I’m doing to the environment. I guess it’s better than doing nothing.”

Is it? Inquiring minds want to know – not necessarily the answer to that question but, as comes up oftener and oftener these days, whether these are the only two choices. Especially when you have to live 30 miles from work.