Posts Tagged ‘society’

Black Friday, really is a black day. Andrew Revkin, from DotEarth, and Kate, one of the readers of this blog, both called my attention to a very sad case of corporate sponsorship. What’s involved? A TV ad from Adbusters promoting Buy Nothing Day:

Here is a reprint of the press release from Adbusters:

Now in its 15th year, the popular Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in as many as 65 countries.

Timed to coincide with Black Friday (this year on Friday, November 23) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season internationally (on Saturday, November 24), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.
Featured in recent years by the likes of CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, the BBC, The Age and the CBC, the global event has been gained mainstream momentum in recent years as the climate crisis drives people to seek out greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption.
Last week, the Adbusters Media Foundation attempted to purchase airtime from MTV for a 30-second commercial promoting Buy Nothing Day 2007. The inoffensive spot uses an animated pig to illustrate the voracious habits of the average North American consumer; it can be viewed online at Adbusters.org.
MTV Networks refused to air the spot in light of its social and environmental message, with MTV Advertising Standards representative Elisa J. Billis explaining that “The spot goes further than we are willing to accept on our channels.”

What saddens me most, is not so much MTV’s reaction, as what it symbolizes in terms of the American culture. Consumption is the engine that drives our country. Beaucoup dollars are involved, and the little pig is foraging where it shouldn’t. There are certain things in this country that cannot be questioned, and consumption is one of them. The pig is doing a good job of stirring the pot.

It is important to recognize however, that trying to fight consumption in this country, and other ‘developed countries‘ for that matter, is a lost cause. Nowhere was it more clear to me, than during my recent visit to the San Francisco Green Festival. As I suggest in ‘Green Festival or Celebration of Green Consumption?‘, a better question to ask, is how can we redirect consumption towards greener alternatives?

Read Full Post »

One hundred ten minutes. For one hundred ten minutes, I was transported into gypsy magic, thanks to Gypsy Caravan, the new movie about the Roman people. So moved I was by their spirit, that I came out of the movie wanting to sing, and dance, and share the joy I felt from them.

And I was made conscious of what is cruelly missing in our American culture. It’s called soul, and passion. The majority of us lead empty lives, fed by an orgy of mediocrity. Britney Spears has become our tragic heroin, the malls are our new congregations, and the young people’s favorite past time is to ‘hang out’. In 1933, C. G. Jung wrote the book, ‘Modern Man in Search of a Soul‘. I believe most of us are searching indeed, although we may not necessarily know it. We are searching when we make ritualistic shopping trips. We are searching when we drink ourselves into oblivion. We are searching when we starve ourselves to death. We are searching when we can’t stop wanting bigger houses, and more cars. We are searching when we can’t stop taking in more and more food. We are searching when we sit for hours at end in front of the TV or video games.

In her post, ‘A radical rethink of our lifestyles is required to save the planet‘, Anja Merret, worries about what she sees as almost unsolvable, ‘the main problem will be to persuade the ordinary folk like you and me living with all mod cons in the developed world, to radically re-assess our lifestyles and go back to very very basic living. Can you see that happening?‘. Anja, I think I have an answer for you. Not an easy one, but an answer nevertheless.

I already touched upon it in ‘The King of Buthan‘. Tonight, the gypsies reminded me. Anja deals with the substractive part of the climate crisis solution. She is right to think that it is in our human nature to not want to give back some of what we have become entitled to. My big house, my three cars, all my things, my American way of life, I want it. I think I want it. Until I find something even better, that will truly satisfy me. That’s where the gypsies come in. Although very poor, by American standards, the gypsies are in reality very rich. Their lives are filled with community, soul, passion, nature, all the important stuff. If we start reintroducing some of that gypsy spirit into our lives, it won’t be so hard to give up the rest. We won’t even want it, anymore.

Read Full Post »

Just went on Technorati, to check on my blog. The first thing I see, is this head banner from Discover Card, flashing, ‘More is Better‘. I will leave it at that . . .

Read Full Post »

Britney Spears is #1 on Yahoo Buzz, this week. I am not immune to the Britney Spears fascination. Every time her name pops up on my AOL News screen, I have to read the story, in details. And I wonder, what is it that so mesmerizes me, about this young woman, whose tragic life is getting played out for all to see.

What is it that makes her one of our most popular icons? At this point, Britney has become an archetype for our self-destructive tendencies. And I can’t help but make the leap, and compare her downhill course, to the disastrous path lying ahead of us all. Like Britney, we first need to stop denying the extent and the urgency of our problem. Or our children are going to suffer.

Read Full Post »

Just received in my Inbox, from Virgin Atlantic: ‘Picture this: London from $256.’ Don’t get me wrong. I am a big admirer of Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial genius. This is not an effort to single out Virgin Atlantic. Rather, I am pointing at the pervasive nature of our modern consumerist culture.

I was curious, and wanted to find out how much CO2 damage a flight like the Virgin Atlantic one would cause. I tried to google ‘air travel, carbon footprint’, and went nowhere. There was no carbon calculator, that could give me the exact CO2 equivalent for a specific trip, let say, San Francisco – London round trip. If any of you know of one, please pass on the information!

Carbon offsets have a role to play in instances where one absolutely has to travel. But going to London on a whim, just for the fun of it? I think that time has passed.

Read Full Post »

It is one thing to deliver content, and another to organize it in a way that is consumable by readers. I had been so busy writing, that I had lost track of the most important person, you, the reader of this blog. Something had to be done. I just went through my entire blog, reassigning tags and categories, to better help sort through all the information. The main challenge was deciding on which categories and how many? Looking at other green blogs, people are all over the place. Some are using tags as categories. Some have short lists, others super long ones. Some category names make sense, others don’t. I decided to do my own thing, and think first of the main topics I like to cover in this blog.

  1. Blogging: I did not plan on writing on my experience as a blogger, but it is turning out to be an important part of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe
  2. Ecopsychology: The main focus and raison d’ etre for the La Marguerite blog. A little talked about part of the solution to the climate crisis. Basically, the study of how personal psychology affects human behavior towards the environment. Including strategies to induce positive behavioral changes.
  3. French life: Because I am French, and references to my French experiences permeate this blog. I find it interesting to compare the two cultures, French and American. And of course, I am a bit biased . . . the French always end up looking good!
  4. Green domesticity: Mostly my interactions with Green Guru, my husband, and in residence green conscience. A narrative has been developing, at times funny, and always a source of insights into the dynamics of families, and how these impact environmental choices.
  5. Green solutions: An emerging category, and one I want to spend more time on in the future. Separately from this blog, I am working on a locally based green initiative. I will keep you posted.
  6. Internet: Living in Silicon Valley, I cannot ignore this most incredible tool, without which this blog would not exist in the first place. Things I love: social networks, wikis, blogs, green Internet solutions, anything new under the cybersun.
  7. Thoughts on society: The place for deeper articles on the macro problems, global solutions, comparisons between cultures, modern thinkers. An opportunity to cross-pollinate and tap into my multidisciplinary background as an engineer, marketer, advertiser, shrink, and artist.
  8. Zen moments: To capture all those times when I become zen, and go down, down, to that still place, where things just are.

That’s eight categories total. A good, manageable number. For other bloggers, interested in going through this same exercise, I would like to share a resource I just found through Daily Blog Tips, an article from Engtech, Climbing out of Category Hell”. I wish I had read it earlier. There are a number of things I did not do, did not know to do, and should have done, to minimize fallouts from my ambitious reorganization. I will only mention one, ‘to turn trackbacks off before you start reorganizing your categories or you’re going to spam the crap out of yourself as you resave all of your posts’. Ouch . . . I ask all to forgive me. This may explain the mysterious fall in Technorati ranking from the last few days.

Read Full Post »

We are social beings

Prad has been gone a little less than two days. I thought I would enjoy this weekend alone, and purposely did not schedule any social activities with my girlfriends. Fourty eight uninterrupted hours, that I could spend doing all the things I love most! Blogging, swimming, taking long walks, reading, vegging. With only a few interruptions from Catherine, on the rare occasions when she still needs something from me. The truth is, being alone sucks. And virtual connections are no substitute for flesh encounters with good friends, family, and even strangers. Every day, my eighty five year old mother goes out for grocery shopping. She does not need to go that often, but she ventures out, still, for the human interaction with the shopkeepers. “Otherwise, I would go crazy.” She lives alone, with only one neighbor she can visit. All her friends have died, and she lives far away from me and my brother. My mother has never been very good at making social connections outside of our immediate family. Over the years, her active social network has diminished to practically nothing. Her life is hell.

Socialization, the way it used to be

Being in the house, alone, I was thinking about all the ways that people socialize nowadays, versus, let say, fifty, a hundred years ago. And I went right back to my days on the farm, with my mother and my grandparents. Socialization was embedded in the fabric of our lives, then. Sunday was going to the market on the horse carriage to the nearby town. The market was a social event, where you got to meet all your friends from other villages. It took us forever to make our way through the whole square, so busy my grandfather was talking to one or the other. Then there was Sunday mass right after. The best part was sitting in the church, and feeling surrounded by the whole community, our community. Of course, the whole village was out and about during the day. Everybody knew everybody, and would stop at each other’s houses. At night, during winter, there were stories told around the fire. My favorite sitting spot was way in the far corner of the fireplace, real close to the flames. I had a little chair that barely fit. If I got too close, my face started to burn. Too far, I started feeling cold. I would spend my time, trying to find the right distance, while listening to the adults’ conversations. The highlight of the year was the batterie, a day of celebration for the whole village signaling the completion of a successful harvest for the wheat crop. Each year, the batterie took place in a different house, and I still remember the time whey we were the hosts. The women had prepared a feast and I had helped. The men, all sweaty from a day in the fields, were laughing and drinking wine, and everybody had something to say to me, la petite. We were pretty happy on the whole, back then. Our basic need for socialization was taken care of.

Estimated score on the collective happiness index: an 8. Total carbon footprint: zero, with the exception of the wood burning.

Socialization now, and why it’s not working

Things are different now. In Silicon Valley where I live, there is a lot of socialization, but you’ve got to plan it. I am fortunate enough to live in a great neighborhood, with neighbors who actually talk to and help each other. But the bulk of our socialization centers around driving from place to place, from activity to activity. For parents, it often means chauffeuring a bunch of kids in SUVs, to sports events. I live very close to the Stanford campus. The other day, I was walking at night, and noticed the soccer field, brimming with activity. There was a night game, and parents had come cheering. What got to me were the bright lights, and the amount of electricity that’s required for that type of social event. Shopping is another big pet peeve of mine. Shopping is a social outlet for many women, and men, and teenagers. All driving to the mall, often without any real need for anything. Only the need to shop. And to go to a place filled with people, with guaranteed opportunities for social transactions. These are just two examples. I keep reading reports that our happiness is way down. Our lives nowadays tend to be fragmented between various networks, that are geographically dipersed. This requires more work on our part, and results in more superficial social ties.

Estimated score on the collective happiness index: 4. Total carbon footprint: it’s going to kill us, unless we change our ways.

Socialization, as part of the green solution

In the search for a green solution, maybe we ought to consider strategies that address this fundamental need we have as social beings, for relatedness and community? It may not be all of the solution, but in my opinion, it ought to be a main part. Looking for ways to rebuild local communities, around non carbon producing activities, or even better, around carbon reducing initiatives. Recognizing that the deeper human need is not about consuming, but socializing instead. The emergence of virtual green social networks is a step in the right direction. It is only one step, however. Virtual connections can only go so far. Eventually, people need to meet, and feel physically connected to each other, around a common activity. The churches, the villages are gone. We need to find a substitute for the mall culture. To do with community, neighborhoods, nature, stories, rituals, work, play, and celebration.

Anticipated score on the collective happiness index: 8. Anticipated total carbon footprint: negative. What do you think?

Read Full Post »

Not a single mention of anything remotely green in Metafilter ‘s list of popular favorites. Their list of green related posts is also disappointedly short. Humor is big, though . . . Green humor, anyone!

Read Full Post »

The Art of Navy Showers

Navy Shower anyone? I just found this post in TreeHugger, where the writer advocates that we all take abbreviated showers, just like those guys in the Navy. There is even a method to it. And since we are in America, even the simplest things come with an instruction manual . . . You may go to Wikipedia and find complete instructions for how to take a Navy Shower. In short, you just turn the shower on, just enough to get yourself wet, turn it off, soap yourself, and then turn it back on to quickly rinse.

The Farm Showers of my grandfather

This reminds me of my days back in my grandparents’ farm, when we did not have a shower. My grandfather was the only one to take a full ‘shower’ once a week. I still remember him stripping down to his underwear, and getting into the ‘abreuvoir’, what looked like a big cement bath tub, and was really meant as a drinking station for the cattle. The sight of him almost naked in the cold morning air used to make me shiver. The ‘Farm Shower’ – I just made up that word – consisted of one bucket of cold water poured over his head, quick soaping, and rinsing with a few more buckets of cold water. The women, my grandmother, my mother, and I, were content enough with occasional hand baths, using our ‘gant de toilette’, the French version of washcloth, which literally means toilet mitten. According to American standards of hygiene, we may have been dirty, but our lives did not suffer, and the clean country air did its share to minimize our natural body odors.

I love American Showers

Fast forward fourty years. While I look back on these years on the farm with great nostalgia, I certainly do not miss those hand baths. And I regard the long, hot American showers as a hard won indulgence that I am not willing to give up. I love the gushing of water, the washing away of the impurities of the day, the warm cocoon of the shower, where for a few minutes I can let my body relax. It is my daily version of a cheap massage. A luxury I am taking for granted. Of course, I am well aware it may not last. Water is going to become the new oil, a resource so precious that people may wage wars because of it. For now, I am not hearing, or seeing anywhere in my radar screen, that I am to stop taking long, hot showers.

Read Full Post »

Having been raised Catholic, I am no stranger to the notion of penance. I had to laugh when I read the New York Times this morning. On the front page, is an article with the headline ‘Vatican Tree Penance: Forgive Us Our CO2′. In short, the Vatican has agreed to buy carbon credits to offset all of their emissions. While I applaud this commendable effort on the part of the holy institution, I can’t help but question the whole psychology at play

‘Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alamed, an official at the Council for Culture at the Vatican, told the Catholic News Service that buying credits was like doing penance. “One can emit less CO2 by not using heating and not driving a car, or one can do penance by intervening to offset emissions, in this case by planting trees, ” he said.

Sounds familiar to all the Catholics out there? You may sin, as long as you confess and do penance. Penance, in the context of the climate crisis problem, seems more like a cope out to me. A way of buying one’s way out of an unavoidable predicament. Sure, I could decide tomorrow that I will not try to change my lifestyle, and buy carbon credits to offset all those dirty emissions of mine. I could, I ‘ve got the money, but in my mind, that is the wrong path to take.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »