» Archive for 2012


Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 by Darin Robbins

The following is a presentation given at Corning Community College for their 2012 Earth Day event.

In order to address environmental problems, and the human impact on the environment, structural sustainability is a far better method than green consumerism. Sustainability, and the living of a sustainable life, is a necessity in order to insure that the carrying capacity of the environment is not exceeded. The various ways to be sustainable can either be through green consumerism or a more structural type of sustainability that involves collective action. The first step to understand the benefits of structural sustainability is to distinguish it from the more popular practice of green consumerism. Green consumerism is the individual consumption of products, usually technology, that may allow one to be environmentally responsible. However, as an individual buying a product, this is inherently isolated from a larger sustainable project. Consumers have the illusion that they are doing something for the environment, but in reality their act of consumption prevents them from addressing the larger picture or doing anything on a large scale. Therefore, green consumerism supports green washing, corporations giving the appearance of being supportive of the environment when in fact they are practicing business as usual. For corporations, green washing is nothing but public relations, and consumers believe this image by buying products in the hope of protecting the environment. But the internal actions and drive for growth of a corporation will always limit and be a perpetual obstacle to real sustainability. Authentic sustainability will never be allowed through the green consumerism of the image put forth by green washing because it will always go beyond the goal of profit. At most, green consumerism addresses the symptoms rather than the cause of environmental damage, leaving the cause untouched. Buying hybrid cars or energy efficient lightbulbs will not protect ecosystems that human societies rely on, especially not in the long-term. Overall, the negative aspects of green consumerism is made worse by the fact that since it is through individual consumption, green consumerism is not even able to be practiced by most people due to economic conditions. If someone where able to afford buying the latest sustainable technology, they alone could be self-sufficient and truly sustainable, but their neighbors who earn less would never even have that capacity which further isolates the actions of the individual that can engage in green consumerism. Green consumerism implies the inequality of access to the proper tools of sustainability because of income. Green consumerism is thus a dead end in the realm of sustainability and a hobby that only the rich can afford.

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Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Darin Robbins

The Occupy movement is an example of a case where demanding the impossible instigates real incremental change to be possible.

When the Occupy movement emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, many in the media refused to acknowledge that it had a coherent set of demands or solutions. Over time, the reporting of the movement diverged widely from the reality of the various occupations across the country. Each encampment, itself an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, conducted a General Assembly where direct consensus-based democracy occurred. It was through this process that demands were articulated and solutions proposed. But since direct democracy is a very rare phenomenon at this time in the United States, the media and various pundits refused to recognize it as a valid method for organization and expression, let alone as a way to put forth demands and solutions. Corporate power, and the limiting of real democracy through a representative form of government, has made direct democracy seem to appear as a foreign element in the American tradition. However, as historians such as Howard Zinn have shown when discussing the various social movements of this nation, direct democracy has been one of the main methods for self-organization. And as David Graeber has demonstrated, direct democracy even preceded ancient Greece in one form or another in various tribal societies. In other words, there is a long history of this type of political organization but it has been excluded from the narrative of the West for so long, or pacified by being converted into the republicanism of the state, that it does not have the chance to speak in the language that many are used to. Current forms of power have made that impossible. Therefore, the demands made by the Occupy movement would at first seem impossible, or so out of step with the status quo that it could be targeted as being idealistic, utopian, or naïve. Divorced from the master narrative of the republican form of government and capitalist economy, the ideas of ending corporate personhood and ending corporate funding of electoral campaigns on their own seem both practical and concise. It is when it is outside of the structure of meaning and its corresponding structure of power that it can be defined as impossible. But the sudden rise of this movement is an example of how new ideas can be injected into the existing system so that the system itself transforms and realigns what it considered possible and impossible. In order for the possible to even begin, there must be a demand for the impossible.

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