Tag Archives: consumerism

The coconut oil I now use.  My photo.

Coconut Makeup Remover

I’ve been wearing makeup since my early teens, and this has sadly involved wiping my eyes with harsh chemicals every night so my eyelashes don’t fall off as I toss and turn in my sleepy time.

It’s very bad for you to forgo removing your makeup at the end of the day. But I’ve also always been casually concerned about the makeup removers and how toxic they’re likely to be. One time a few weeks ago I used a new type of remover and instantly got an unpleasant rash all over my face. My mum was visiting at the time, and she offered to try making me a natural makeup remover (she’s a medical herbalist and is experimenting with making natural beauty products). I scoffed that it couldn’t be done, because the makeup itself is full of chemicals so even more are needed to remove it. I switched to a different brand and the skin rash gradually subsided.  Continue reading

Image from the front cover of Prosperity Without Growth

‘Prosperity Without Growth’ by Tim Jackson

I’ve just finished reading Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson (2009) for the second time. I got it from my university library and I haven’t been able to bring myself to relinquish it – I’ve renewed this little volume three times now. It’s one of the best factual books I’ve ever read, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone remotely interested in sustainability, the environment, economics or well-being.  Continue reading

Let’s Demand a Steady State

So, as promised, this post is the second part in my little mini series about transitioning to a steady state economy. Getting Past the Dilemma of Growth was my policy action plan that governments could feasibly use to get round the catch-22 that economic growth is leading us to ecological collapse and yet the fear of recession chains us to it. How do we get governments to take this seriously? In democracies such as my country, having a policy action plan is only half the battle. You need public support. It’s easy to overlook this when you consider how many things our governments do that we’re not happy with. But something like economic growth is so ingrained in the public consciousness that we’ve all spent our whole lives seeing it as the magic solution to our woes. Above all, we’re used to governments treating it like the number one priority. So in terms of transitioning to a steady state, there’s two things to do before governments will even take notice. Two things that normal people like you and me need to do.

First, we need to raise awareness of the problems with growth and more importantly, the steady state solution. We need to maximise media coverage. Talk about it to everyone. We need it to become common knowledge. We need to persuade everyone this is our best hope.

Second, we need to show politicians we want it. If they tried to do this without public support they’d be out of office come the next election surer than oranges are orange. So we need to assure them we won’t vote them out for their risky behaviour, and in fact, will vote them out if they refuse to act. We need to demand it.

Get Informed & Raise Awareness
If you don’t already know what I mean by a steady state, I mean an economic model where the economy doesn’t grow but stays at a steady size, within ecological limits. It is not in recession because it is designed to be in this state. The focus is on equitable human well-being. Although the economy doesn’t carry on growing, culture and science still drive humanitarian progress. Check out the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) for more information, and sign their position. Read their books, Supply Shock and especially Enough is Enough which is possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Once informed, and if you want to help make this a reality, then shout about it. Talk to your friends about it. Write facebook statuses about it. Recommend people to read those books, and others, or just google the term.  If you are a blogger yourself, then write about it. Mention the steady state concept in responses to news articles and in online forums. Just go on about it to anyone that will listen. But make sure you know what you’re talking about first, as the last thing we need is confusion over what it does and doesn’t mean.

Demand a Steady State
If you really want a steady state economy, then don’t stop by telling your friends you think it’s a good idea. Demand it. Write an email to your MP about it, and if they don’t respond within a month, send another one. Suggest to a like-minded people you know that they do the same. Write letters to newspapers about it. Maybe we could organise a petition asking for the dilemma of growth to be discussed in parliament. If it did get discussed, I’m sure they wouldn’t agree to do anything about it, not the first time anyway. But that would be just be the start, and politicians would at least be forced to learn what the concept means. Then we could organise protest marches, which would also generate media coverage of the issue. (More on media later). Come on guys, get your citizen muscles pumping. We are the 99% and all that.

Start Living It
It’s true that we desperately need systemic change. It’s true that our economy and even physical infrastructure is not set up for sustainable living. But there are plenty of ways we can start living the revolution before it’s actually happened. The main things to think about are reducing our consumption and increasing our resilience… Reducing consumption is quite a challenge in a society crazed by materialism, but it can be done. If you’re a bit poor then you’ll have a head start with this because saving money might be enough of an incentive to force yourself away from the glitter of Topshop and the Iphone 5. I’m not pointing any fingers here, because I know first hand how hard it can be to resist the pull of adverts, shopping malls and the endless treadmill of fashion. But if you’re serious about this, then you need to get a handle on your consumption. I’m not saying don’t buy stuff (obviously impossible) but I am saying think before you buy. Try to buy more second hand things. Or at least good quality things so you can keep them for years and repair them. Don’t buy cheap disposable crap. Borrow stuff, share stuff. You get the idea. The resilience thing is about making yourself more secure and less dependent on the fragile global economy and intricate logistics system. If you have a garden or even a balcony, start growing some of your own food. It’s so fun it’s verging on addictive, once you get started. If you have enough money then invest in solar panels and start generating your own power. If you can’t afford this or are renting like me, then at least try to reduce your energy use.

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So in conclusion, if you want a steady state future, there’s three (or four really) main things you can do. Learn about it, tell others about it, show the politicians you want it, and just start living like it’s already here.

Next time I get a chance I’ll write about what the media can do for the transition. Then I’ll be on to NGOs and the business world.

Getting Past the Dilemma of Growth

Indefinite economic growth is not physically possible, and there’s mounting evidence and opinion that it’s not even desirable.

Cartoon by Polyp.org.uk

Cartoon by Polyp.org.uk

I’m convinced that our best hope of sustainable progress is to transition to a steady-state economy, where consumption and population are kept at steady, ecologically safe levels, and equitable human well-being is the overarching focus. In Enough is Enough, Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill outline a practical blueprint for such an economy. Their engaging and accessible book suggests seven key policy goals, each with examples of specific policies:

  • Limit throughput of natural resources
  • Stabilize population
  • Distribute income and wealth
  • Reform financial institutions
  • Change our progress indicators
  • Secure meaningful jobs
  • Rethink commerce

Although these are all brilliant suggestions, I think the book misses a crucial point. After reading Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson, I’ve realised that I was being quite naïve in my assumption that the only things blocking my vision of a steady-state were political will and corporate influence. Of course those are huge obstacles, but the real underlying obstacle is what Jackson calls ‘’the dilemma of growth’’.

This dilemma, or paradox, is that although continued economic growth risks ecological collapse, we’re locked in to chasing it simply because our economy doesn’t work if it stops growing. When growth stops, or even slows down too much, it causes recession. People lose their jobs, and sometimes their homes. Businesses go bankrupt. The government interferes by borrowing money from banks and hands out stimulus packages, desperate to get the economy growing again. But this creates public debt.

This is why economic growth is always the top priority, why the media’s always cheerleading it and why the political will for a steady-state is non-existent. But it’s vital that we get past this catch-22, and fast. While we’re forced to pursue economic growth, action on climate change, poverty, social justice and biodiversity loss will be marginal. We desperately need to find a way past this systemic problem, because limiting throughput (and Dietz and O’Neill’s other ideas) won’t be possible in a growth-based economy.

If you thought this post was going to just be me moaning about the problem, then think again. I’ve been racking my brains and I’ve come up with an idea, which I think is feasible.

This is a top-down, policy based approach. Later I’ll be writing about what role individuals, businesses, the media and NGOs will play in the transition.

Stage 1:
Introduce substantial taxes on all forms of pollution (atmospheric, water, soil etc). This would have four beneficial effects. Firstly, it would obviously discourage pollution. Secondly, it would help to internalize externalities, forcing companies to pay the full price of their production processes – which would force them to put their prices up, meaning retailers would also have to, meaning people wouldn’t be able to afford as many consumer goods. Thirdly, it would massively reduce economic growth (which is only possible by externalizing costs and not counting things like pollution). Fourthly, it would raise funds for stage two.

Stage 2:
Before the harmful effects of recession kick in, implement an ecological investment package. This would be similar to a stimulus package in that it would aim to prevent unemployment, but of course it wouldn’t be trying to stimulate growth. Instead, the investments would be laying the foundation for our steady-state economy, while creating millions of jobs and opportunities for enterprise and innovation. The package would provide investments and grants for:

  • Public transport
  • A new smart electric grid
  • Renewable energy
  • Retrofitting buildings
  • Recycling plants
  • Parks, urban farms and green spaces
  • Pedestrianized city centres and plazas
  • Organic agriculture
  • Reforestation
  • Habitat conservation
  • Scholarships for environmental degrees
  • Green skills evening classes
  • Research into clean technologies, e.g. hydrogen power

Many of these investment areas would improve health and well-being, all of them would reduce our ecological impact and all of them would create jobs. Note that employees with a huge range of skill levels and types will be required: from scientists to construction labourers and from teachers to engineers. This should address the risk of unemployment. It would also harbour the growth of many new green businesses. But crucially, many of the investments will not be productive in conventional terms, or will only be productive in the long term. This should mean that although employment will be high, growth should be slow.

Stage 3:
However, there’s no telling how people will spend their wages. If people still spend all their disposable income on consumer goods then our sustainability gains will be negligible. There’s two ways of reducing consumption, and I recommend we use both simultaneously:

Limit throughput:
The pollution taxes will already be reducing consumption to an extent, as super-cheap disposable products will be increasingly unavailable. A few more policies could help speed up this trend:

  • A tax on the use of virgin raw materials which can be recycled, such as paper, plastic and aluminium. This would boost recycling, reduce resource-intensity of products and gather funds for future investment.
  • Stricter controls on advertising could help to reduce demand for consumer goods. As a start, advertising to children should be banned.
  • Some kind of limit could be placed on the import of consumer goods, to prevent the risk of being green at home but outsourcing all our dirty industry, pollution and resource use. Maybe a ceiling could be set and then companies could buy import rights in a kind of auction.
  • Tighter product standards, where goods are expected to be durable and repairable. Better quality products without built-in obsolescence would reduce demand, as they would last longer and could be repaired.
  • Encourage labour intensive but low-carbon services to fill needs rather than products. E.g. massages over cosmetics, gigs over video games… Could be done by offering tax breaks to service companies, or start-up grants, possibly.

Improve Equality:
The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett show that more equal societies perform better across a range of health and social factors: they have better literacy and life expectancy, and they have less crime, less teenage pregnancy and less obesity. In addition, more equal societies are less consumerist. This is because in unequal societies, envy and competition lead to the increased consumption of status goods (such as flashy cars and designer clothes). Poverty and wealth are always relative; people compare themselves to others in their society. If some are excessively rich, everyone aspires to that materialistic bench mark. For these twin reasons, a steady state aims to be more equal. Note: I am not suggesting a totally equal society. All jobs having the same salaries just wouldn’t make sense. What I am suggesting, is that the gap between rich and poor should be narrowed. This could be done by several policies:

  • Phase out fractional reserve banking and the interest function of money. Is it really fair that people be paid just for being rich? The interest function deepens inequality by distributing wealth to those who already have it. Fractional reserve banking allows banks to create money out of thin air and locks us into cycles of debt that can’t be repaid even with economic growth, let alone without it. Dietz and O’Neill suggest we phase out fractional reserve banking until eventually banks can’t loan money unless they literally have the funds to do so.
  • Progressive income taxes, used to fund extensive public services such as healthcare, education, libraries and museums, incapacity benefits, child and elder care. These would help to ‘’level the playing field’’. I think eventually we should have free university education for those who have the right A Levels and pass an interview.
  • As outlined in Enough is Enough, pay ratios could be used to reduce inequality. If a company had a pay ratio of 1:80 this would mean the CEO couldn’t be paid more than 80 times the salary of the lowest-paid employee, probably a cleaner. More transparency in business would pressure companies to publish their pay ratios, as well as their bonuses.

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With these three stages, I think it would be possible to get past the dilemma of growth.

There’s undoubtedly going to be a large element of creative destruction with this transition. Some companies won’t adjust quickly enough and will go bankrupt. But that’s okay, as long as there are other innovative companies rising from the ashes. The steady-state economy is people centred. It’s not the companies that are important, but the people behind them – what we’re trying to avoid is unemployment. If people lose their jobs because their employer has gone under, that’s okay as long as there are other new job opportunities open to them. It’s only a problem if there aren’t enough jobs to go round or if companies can’t afford to employ the workers they need.

Persuading politicians to undertake this strategy is the subject of future posts, because that’s where the role of individuals, the media, NGOS and businesses come in.

Until next time!

 

Recommended reading:

Dietz, R and O’Neill, D. (2013) Enough is Enough. London and New York: Routledge.

Jackson, T. (2009). Prosperity Without Growth. London: Earthscan.

Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2010). The Spirit Level. London: Penguin Books.

The Story of Solutions

The Story of Stuff Project – pioneered by Annie Leonard – aims to educate people about where our stuff comes from, where it goes when we toss it out, and how to live as citizens rather than mere consumers. They make videos and podcasts, as well as providing a world-wide networking opportunity for those wanting to contribute to a more positive future.

Their latest video was released on Tuesday the 1st October. It’s called The Story of Solutions and you can watch the 9 minute delight for free on their website. The basic premise is that the economy is set up like a game, where the goal is MORE. We can’t change the outcome of the game without changing the fundamental rules, so what would be a better goal? Something more fitting for the 21st century. What about BETTER?

The short video mentions lots of inspiring projects that are already going on around the world. The idea is that although there is no one magic solution to our contemporary challenges, a huge array of little solutions are necessary, possible, and already beginning. The video differentiates between ‘old-game solutions’ and ‘game-changing solutions’ which is quite interesting.

Screenshot from the video.

Screenshot from the video.

This criticism of economic growth and suggestion of a more human-centred, qualitative type of progress sounds a lot like advocacy for a steady-state economy. So much so, that I’m surprised they didn’t mention this concept outright. Perhaps they didn’t want to off-put people with something as crazy as that? That would be pretty lame, and not at all in the spirit of The Story of Stuff Project. I guess it’s possible they just don’t know about steady-state economics, but that seems even less likely, given as they’re pretty on the pulse.

Anyway, the video is definitely worth a watch, especially if you’re new to these sorts of ideas.

Phonebloks – Sustainable Design

Phonebloks is conceptual company that want to make mobile phones more sustainable, customizable and user-friendly.

Currently, phones tend to break within a couple of years or at least seem obsolete due to planned obsolescence and the fast-paced development of all things digital. This means that we throw away a shocking tonnage of mobiles and other devices like cameras and mp3 players. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and most of it ends up in landfill – which is crazy because it contains diminishing finite metals. All e-waste produced in the UK is by law required to be recycled within the national borders, but I’ve watched a documentary exposing the fact that many companies try to skip this costly responsibility by illegally exporting the waste to developing countries. They tend not to have high-tech waste separation facilities so it is ‘recycled’ by people (and kids) sorting through it by hand, with bare feet, using small fires to separate the materials and contracting horrible illnesses from the toxins in the heavy metals and plastics.

So, electronic waste is a problem, and mobile phones are a big part of that.

What Phonebloks envisions is a ”phone worth keeping”. They rightly point out that when a phone breaks or becomes slow or doesn’t have a swanky new feature that we’re after, it’s generally just one small component of the phone that has the issue. But because they’re not designed to be repaired or upgraded, (planned obsolescence), we chuck the whole handset away. Their solution is a modular phone, where each component (battery, speaker, WIFI, camera, SIM card etc) is encapsulated in a handy ‘blok’ which can be removed and replaced with a new one. The ‘bloks’ would be developed by partner companies and sold similarly to apps.

Here’s their promotional video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDAw7vW7H0c

They’ve got a great idea, but they can’t start production until they’ve got investors and partners, and those moneybags won’t get involved unless there’s proof that such a phone would be popular. If you think it sounds great, then you should check out their website, like them on facebook and most importantly, join their ‘thunderclap‘. That means you agree to send a message via facebook, twitter or another online platform – automatically – at the same time on the same date as all the other people that have signed up. So far 302,917,930 people have added their voice.

Speak up now if you want this super cool, affordable, sustainable and customizable phone.
Eco design is the future of technology!

Outrageous WordPress Ads

UPDATE: This post doesn’t really apply now that I’ve got my own website for Earth Baby. I’ve just left it here in case anyone still wanted to read it. 

I’m absolutely livid.

Today I looked at one of my older posts, because somebody had commented on it, and I was presented with this message at the end of the article.

I knew that WordPress have a special option for bloggers to earn money from their writing by getting ads on their blog. Some people earn a full time living wage in this way. I decided not to, because it’s totally inappropriate for my blog. I criticize advertising and consumerism, not to mention many specific unethical companies. So it would be ridiculously counter-productive and hypocritical to then earn money from adverts. But as you can see, I got this message saying ”Occasionally, some of your visitors will see an advertisement here.” Confused and angry, I clicked on the ‘Tell me more’ option.

It turns out that even though I decided not to earn revenue from my blog by allowing ads to encroach on it, WordPress have been going right ahead and making money for themselves by sticking adverts on my posts! Without my knowledge or permission! God knows how long this has been going on. Apparently logged-in WordPress users will never see the ads, but other readers will. Obviously I wanted to check out what other people would be seeing, in the box where I got the above message. In Internet Explorer this is what I got.

I almost fell on the floor when I saw this. Fucking McDonald’s! How fucking dare they! Plus Samsung, and two other random companies. This is not okay. Why haven’t I got any sneering comments about this glaring hypocrisy? It must be obvious to any reader that this is completely against the philosophy of Earth Baby.

To help me check out the scale of the problem, my boyfriend searched through my posts on his computer. He didn’t find any more ads, and I breathed a sigh or slight relief. Then he realised he had AdBlocker installed, which was doing its job of blocking them out. He changed to another browser and tried again. Sure enough, not just some but every single one of my heartfelt posts had an advertisement on the bottom. They were for random products, and even banks.

WordPress offers a No Ads Upgrade to ensure against these commercial intrusions, for the sum of $30 per year. Great. Make me pay money to have what I thought I was getting anyway. I can’t even afford that at the moment, as I’m pretty much skint until my student loan comes through next month. I guess I’m going to have to either fork out for that, or stop using WordPress. I don’t want to give up blogging. I could use another platform I guess. But I don’t like Blogger, and they probably do the same thing anyway, come to think of it. I’ll plan to get my own website I guess.

I’m so upset and angry about this.

Needless to say, if you’re a WordPress user reading this, then this is going on on your blog too, unless you’ve already got the bloody upgrade. If you’re not from WordPress, then I’m so sorry about this – I’m incredibly embarrassed and feel like my words have been violated. There’s probably an ad showing on this post. Ignore it. I don’t want it there.

One Planet Living, not my image.

One Planet Living

If everyone in the world consumed the same amount of resources and produced as much waste as the average person in Western Europe, we’d need three planets. If we all lived like the North Americans, we’d need five. On the global scale, we’re using just over one and a half Earths worth of resources and pollution assimilation capacity. This is only (temporarily) possible because we’re burning coal, oil and gas which are literally millions of years of solar energy compacted into convenient fossil fuels. It’s all very well saying ”we’d need three planets…” but that’s an abstract comparison, because obviously we can’t get more than one. Apart from the use of ancient fossilized sunlight, the other reason it’s possible for people in Europe and America to have such large ecological footprints is because about two billion out of the total seven billion people live in extreme poverty.

I want to live a lifestyle that could theoretically be lived by everyone, I want to use only one seven-billionth of the Earth’s productive land. I want to use no more than my fair share. In other words, I want a one planet lifestyle.

Unfortunately, I’m quite far away from that goal.

According to this sustainability calculator, if everyone lived like me we’d need about 2.5 planets.

One Planet Living, not my image.

One Planet Living, not my image. The calculator uses these 10 principles of sustainability to calculate your footprint.

Yes, that’s less than the average for the UK, where I live. But considering how thoughtful I think I’ve been, it’s higher than I expected/hoped. I’m vegan, I buy organic local vegetables, recycled toilet paper and clothes from charity shops. I only travel by public transport and always recycle. I use an ethical bank, donate monthly to three NGOs and only use natural cleaning products. All this is great, but my lifestyle is still shockingly unsustainable. There’s several areas that I think let me down, some of which are partly outside my control:

I throw away waste food
Because: my council doesn’t  recycle food waste and I don’t have a garden. 
What I have done: I’ve sent my MP two letters asking her to implement food waste collection, to no avail.  
What I could do: plan meals to reduce waste, look into indoor composting? 

My flat has no energy saving adaptations
Because: I’m only renting and my landlord isn’t interested in investing.
What I have done: Only put the heating on if it’s snowing!
What I could do: Approach my landlord about long-term money savings from energy efficiency.

I take baths not showers
Because: My flat only has a bath.
What I have done: Hassled my landlord frequently about a shower installation, taken fewer baths.
What I could do: Offer to pay half the cost for a shower to be installed.

I do buy some new consumer goods, e.g. clothes, books etc
Because: second hand shops don’t always have what I want.
What I have done: kept shopping to a minimum, often brought second hand, chosen independent shops.
What I could do: Stay focused on what I went in for when shopping!

Using the sustainability calculator has reminded me that just caring about sustainability isn’t enough, I need to continue to adapt my lifestyle. I think I’ve lately been a bit naive by thinking I’m already living a very eco-friendly lifestyle, when in actual fact there is still a fair bit of room for improvement. The FAQ on the website said it’s very unusual for Western citizens to be able to get to the one planet level because so many things are dependant on the infrastructure of the society you live in, as well as individual behaviour. Taking this into account, I think I should be able to get mine down to two planets at least.

It’s shocking really, that for a well-meaning and environmentally minded citizen, using twice their fair share of the Earth’s resources would be an achievement. To me this really shows how unsustainable the global socio-economic system is.
I’m going to tackle the key areas I’ve outlined above, and I can only hope to do my bit as a postgraduate environmentalist once I’ve finished studying.

If you like, why not  use the calculator I used and post your score in the comments section?

The Consumption Engineer

con·sum·er·ism

Noun:

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.

- Definition from Wikipedia

Consumerism wouldn’t be a problem if we had an infinitely large planet with an infinite amount of natural resources. The catch is that this is pure fantasy and in reality our planet is a fixed size. It has a bountiful larder of resources, so large that in the past it seemed more like a Narnian wardrobe than a larder… But now there are so many people, consuming at such a rate that we are starting to hit the limits of our finite Earth.

At first consumerism may of been liberating and wonderful, I don’t know as I wasn’t alive, but now it is dangerous. This paradigm is stagnating sustainability efforts and speeding us along in a terrible direction. And there is evidence to suggest it isn’t even making us happier. The New Economics Foundation (nef) theorize that after our basic needs are met, it is non-material benefits that improve our life satisfaction.

In 2013 consumerism seems natural – a state of things that organically grew out of modernity. It seems to be intrinsically linked to capitalism, democracy and the contemporary.

Last week I watched Century of the Self and found to my surprise that this is not the case. Apparently consumerism, far from growing naturally out of capitalism, was almost single-handedly designed by one man. That man was named Edward Bernays.

The one and only                Mr. Bernays..

Bernays invented the industry of Public Relations in America in the 1920s. He had been working on propaganda during the Cold War, but decided that similar techniques could be used in peace time to improve the economy. Before this time, capitalism was well established but goods were still sold and advertised on the basis of need and function. Things that were solely for decoration were sold for their aesthetic attraction. But from this time on advertising would forget about function and focus on creating an emotional and ideological link between the item and the consumer. For example, a sofa wouldn’t be ‘comfortable and well-made’ anymore, it’d be ‘the key to a perfect family life’. Bernays used the theories of his famous uncle, Sigmund Freud along with other ideas on crowd psychology to ‘manipulate the masses’. The basic idea was that every person contains dangerous sexual and aggressive unconscious desires under a thin layer of conscious rationality. The crowd mentality was believed to be especially dangerous, as in a crowd people could somehow snap, let their dangerous desires free and get all crazy. Bernays decided that people were essentially more emotional than logical, so advertising would be more successful if it tapped into the unconscious desires of people rather than their intellect. He theorized that ‘the masses’ could be kept happy and docile with a steady flow of consumer goods that promised to make them popular, beautiful and successful. In this way there would never be a problem with over-production, the companies he worked for would get rich and the government could easily control its hordes of dangerous irrational subjects consumers.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that in contemporary psychology, Freud’s theories are very outdated. His ideas are interesting but deeply flawed, and he didn’t have much empirical evidence to back up his claims. And yet so much of our modern society is based on his work. Not just the economic model of consumerism, but also the assumption that people are irrational and need to be kept under control.  This is the justification for a democratic model that isn’t actually that democratic.

In the academic field of media studies, it’s now very unfashionable to talk of  ‘the masses’. It is thought that this is a patronizing and simplifying term. Instead it is understood that there is no ‘mass’, but rather just a lot of individuals.

It’s very easy to point fingers of blame at this point and demonize old Edward. On the one hand, there’s no way he could of known what social and environmental problems would be caused by his work further down the line. On the other hand, there was an interview with him as a very old man in Century of the Self and he didn’t seem at all remorseful of his actions – he seemed proud. Perhaps he didn’t realize the full implications, who knows. Freud isn’t to blame either really, as he didn’t for the most part even know what his nephew was doing.

Rather than playing the blame game, I can see a positive side to this story. If something as huge and over-arching as consumerism can be engineered by one man, what else can be achieved? This really blows the ‘one person can’t make a difference’ theory out of the water. Also I see the fact that our insatiable desire for more and more useless crap is not natural but intentionally engineered to be great news.
As Annie Leonard says, this system didn’t just happen, it was designed.

And we can design something too.