Why Environmentalism is Set to Fail

September 5, 2010
David Driedger |

At the cor­ner of St. James St and Portage Ave in Win­nipeg is a build­ing which has pro­vided the can­vas for some mas­sive murals for Win­nipeg Hydro. As I passed by the mural today I saw two kids lay­ing back on the grass at the edge of a lake. They were look­ing up into a blue sky made lighter with the pres­ence of dis­tinct white clouds. It was the clas­sic sce­nario of see­ing ‘some­thing’ within the unique and ran­dom shapes that pass by. The clouds, how­ever, betrayed the clear and unmis­tak­able shapes of an energy-efficient light bulb and wash­ing machine. There are an increas­ing num­ber cri­tiques out there of how cap­i­tal­ism con­tin­ues to entrench itself within envi­ron­men­tal­ism pro­vid­ing the ther­a­peu­tic oppor­tu­nity to buy and con­sume your way to a cleaner world and there­fore feel good about your­self with­out hav­ing to change any­thing (I can remem­ber a hybrid car com­mer­cial with the ques­tion what is this car doing and the answer clean­ing the envi­ron­ment.

This mural, how­ever, struck me as even more sin­is­ter. Instead of offer­ing a sim­ple seda­tive to the prob­lem of what­ever our envi­ron­men­tal cri­sis may be this mural actu­ally attempts to co-opt the very pos­si­bil­ity of imag­i­na­tive alter­na­tives. Go ahead and dream of what is pos­si­ble but the game is fixed, we now posses the mate­r­ial of your imag­i­na­tion and can mold it for our gain. Am I wrong? There is a cult grow­ing around envi­ron­men­tal­ism that I am hav­ing lit­tle faith in. It seems dis­in­ter­ested in and detached from the larger issues of equal­ity and social restoration.

I found the image online and as I looked at it again it keeps get­ting worse. The light bulb and wash­ing machine are actu­ally placed as the exclu­sive vari­ables for a math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion the sum of which equals a green tree. This is a bla­tant lie. The vari­ables in this equa­tion are no dif­fer­ent then the vari­ables of an old bulb and wash­ing machine (per­haps with a slightly lower numer­i­cal value). This ad is try­ing to tell you that these new prod­ucts are of a fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent order and com­po­si­tion. They no longer add to dis­as­ter but now add to sal­va­tion. This is a load of crap.

Author Name: 
David Driedger
Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.