Pat Kane: The ‘I’m-happy-I’m-green’ consensus won’t placate our lust for novelty
In today’s Guardian, writer Pat Kane argues that a critique of consumer culture must answer both the human itch for excited engagement and the call of the damaged Earth. Pat joins the dots that link a low-carbon future, sustainable growth, Big Society rhetoric, and playful human creativity. Essential reading.
To see the deep roots of hyper-consumerism in our lives, take the average broadsheet paper (let’s say, one dearest to both our hearts) and read the whole of each page – editorial and ads. In elegantly typeset prose, we enjoy its cosmopolitan and concerned world-view: all points are weighed and considered. Yet inserted into these spaces are messages from a much narrower domain. I did a basic ad count on this very title over the last week. Consumer electronics of all kinds tops the list; next come holidays, financial services, furniture and cars.
The story this tells about our consumer economy is stark: it’s about discarding familiar arrangements of metal, fabric and plastic and buying new ones. It’s about stretching towards the financial liquidity needed to attain or house the stuff, and softening the blow with brief overseas escapes from the treadmill of acquisition. If you were a climate crisis guru looking for evidence that big business understands the environmental urgency of reducing material consumption … well, you wouldn’t look here. It’s business very much as usual.