Worldwatch Craps Itself

So, guess what the geniuses over at the Worldwatch Institute have done for their annual report?

State of the World 2010: Tranforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability

The core problem we face, these would-be rebels say — without a single shred of evidence, by the way — is that “we continue to think of ourselves mostly as consumers.”

And where does “consumerism” come from, according to Worldwatch?  From a viral illness:

As consumerism has taken root in culture upon culture over the past half-century, it has become a powerful driver of the inexorable increase in demand for resources and production of waste that marks our age. Of course, environmental impacts on this scale would not be possible without an unprecedented population explosion, rising affluence, and breakthroughs in science and technology. But consumer cultures support—and exaggerate—the other forces that have allowed human societies to outgrow their environmental support systems.

Yes, friends, our own stupidity has unleashed a runaway cultural rot, which in turn “allows” things to unfold as they are.  We have met the enemy, and it is us, the “consumers.”

Capitalism?  The word does not appear in any of the promotional material for this allegedly “subversive volume.”

And what is the cure prescribed by these self-described award-winners?  If it weren’t entirely, comically, howlingly unrealistic, it would be damned frightening:

…Preventing the collapse of human civilization requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns. This transformation would reject consumerism—the cultural orientation that leads people to find meaning, contentment, and acceptance through what they consume—as taboo and establish in its place a new cultural framework centered on sustainability. In the process, a revamped understanding of “natural” would emerge: it would mean individual and societal choices that cause minimal ecological damage or, better yet, that restore Earth’s ecological systems to health. Such a shift—something more fundamental than the adoption of new technologies or government policies, which are often regarded as the key drivers of a shift to sustainable societies—would radically reshape the way people understand and act in the world.

Transforming cultures is of course no small task. It will require decades of effort in which cultural pioneers—those who can step out of their cultural realities enough to critically examine them—work tirelessly to redirect key culture-shaping institutions: education, business, government, and the media, as well as social movements and long-standing human traditions. Harnessing these drivers of cultural change will be critical if humanity is to survive and thrive for centuries and millennia to come and prove that we are, indeed, “worth saving.”

Alas, this kind of rote, thoughtless, misleading, dishonest, apolitical, and authoritarian drivel is what passes as “subversive” on the topic of corporate capitalism’s ongoing micro-management of off-the-job life/destruction of the planetary ecosphere.  Such crapola causes über-poseur $99 sneaker pimps to ejaculate verbal turds about Worldwatch’s reactionary mental mush somehow being “a cultural mindbomb exploding with devastating force.” Hah and ROFLMFAO, times ten!

Talk about obstacles to change…How, pray tell, are we ever supposed to change the world if our gas-bagging award-winners continue to refuse to help us describe it?

9 Replies to “Worldwatch Craps Itself”

  1. Absolutely craptastic scumola from the Worldwatch Institute, but then –
    1. Lester Brown, its guru, is a green capitalist. A greenwasher. He rattles off shitty facts and then calls for green solutions through green markets and green goodness and green ponies.
    2. You “hope” to “change the world”? Still? How’s that going? Personally, I think the left is full of gasbags, and the right owns both the gas and the bag, so where does that leave us?
    3. Every recent “development,” every recent issue, every recent global conference – beyond pathetic.
    4. No one in their right mind should ever use the dumbass term “sustainable” without risking immediate combustion. We all trail pools of chemical slime – a backwash of industrial waste emanating from each of us, and there is only minor adjustment that we can do as a whole to that noxious, but productive, spew.
    I’ll admit it – I went shopping today. Oh, that’s right – adbusters never goes shopping. Lester Brown shops, though, and buys marzipan figurines hand-made by frogs.

  2. Martin, the left is certainly full of gasbags, and the right certainly owns the means of gassing.

    Nevertheless, my attitude is that, if there’s any chance whatsoever to rescue ourselves, then that’s what I’m going to fight for. Hitler lost, and the CRM beat Jim Crow. So, I choose optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect. We’re likely to lose, but that’s not certain.

  3. Fine sentiments, MD, but –
    1. Hitler lost, in the sense that he eventually committed suicide. Up until then, his brand of racist fascism ruled the entirety of a country, plus swaths of other global territory. American corporations and academic institutions were all too happy to do business with him, and none of the vaunted German social democratic institutions, nor any of ours, defeated his openly genocidal regime. The Allies became murderous bombers, killing millions of civilians in a race of barbarity on all sides.
    2) Jim Crow is dead, long live the corporate supersystem in which blacks have the great fortune of having one-ninth the wealth of whites.
    3) Down with cliches. How do we as inhabitants of the west “fight” or display “optimism of the will”? Where’s the protest today, my man? Topple a tower, sign a petition, express solidarity, get a new tattoo? To do justice to the word, the only place we “fight” is in our minds, and that is where the vitality of life reigns supreme.
    4) Okay, I lose- who was the CRM?

  4. CRM = Civil Right Movement. Sorry for the acronym.

    Again, I’m not saying I’m an optimist. But, as my old teacher used to say, nobody saw the Russian Revolution coming. And I also think Chomsky is correct in saying there has been a lot of cultural progress being made, despite the lack of institutional change or coherent left politics.

  5. Happy to walk through the report with you Michael if you’d like to chat. But, perhaps you can take a look at the first chapter, which explains the point better than any news report or news release could. You can read that at: What I tried to do with this report was to explain how we’ll need to intentionally shift cultures away from consumerism so that living sustainably feels as natural as living like a consumer does today. As the report makes clear, of course consumerism isn’t a virus, but cultures can be intentionally shaped–and have been by the advertising industry, the media, educational systems, the government, and especially business interests. The report then focuses especially on how those that want to prevent the collapse of human civilization will need to work to intentionally transform cultures using those very same institutions–business, government, education, the media, as well as traditions and social movements. To say that just resisting corporate capitalism will be enough to create a new sustainable society (which will need to be formed around a culture that makes sustainable living the natural default setting) is not helpful. We need to go much deeper than just resistance and work towards creating a new model. That is the heart of State of the World 2010.

  6. Erik, we differ on this topic. Creating a new model means creating new economic institutions and opening new avenues for popular sovereignty. You think talking about “culture” is somehow deeper than talking about corporate capitalism. I disagree, strongly.

    You also seem to have missed my point about the word “consumer” and its associated vocabulary. In my experience, people virtually never think of themselves as “consumers.” They think of themselves as people trying to live life and figure out how to survive and be happy.

    “Consumer” is a corporate capitalist slander on ordinary people, who are product-users and citizens. Your group not only obscures this point, but compounds it by blaming the masses for the “consumer” vocabulary.

    I wish Worldwatch all the success in the world, but think you are doing counter-productive work in this area.

    I don’t know whether that’s due to innocent error, or the kinds of intentional punch-pulling required for fund-raising and getting bankers to endorse your efforts.

    Solidarity, but in partial disagreement.

  7. Fair enough Michael. Not pulling punches here–no bankers endorsed this report. What I am doing is using an anthropologist’s eye to dissect cultures. Yes, we don’t call ourselves consumers, like tribesmen that worship ghosts don’t call themselves superstitious (or a monotheist worshiping God doesn’t either). But we are consumers–looked from an outside perspective.
    People, are embedded in cultural realities and most of us simply do whatever is normal in the culture we’re in. Whether that’s consuming vast quantities of stuff, eating factory farmed meats or worshiping ghosts.
    The key is to reengineer cultural systems so that living sustainably becomes natural.
    I hope, before you critically respond to this comment, that you will please read the introductory chapter. Then, if you still disagree, fine, but please look understand what the article says first. Few news stories covered what the report tried to get across adequately.


  8. This seems all nice and high-minded, and you all are to be commended for being such merit-class reformers. Good friendly co-optation – nothing wrong with that.
    So if that gaseous paragraph is to be the introduction, we are to look for our existing social institutions, the ones that have performed so well in this epoch, to be Mr. Assadourian’s change agents or sustainable policy punjabs or whatever they want to be known as – it’s their world, is it not?
    You”ll just hope for nice words from them, maybe some good news, while that smell of greenwashing permeates this networked, earnest un-self-critical “progressive” strata. “Business” is always in lower caps, as if it is just another little backwater, and never is there responsibility assessed, never does the true force of anger get allowed in the climate-controlled air.
    Where is the dissent in the report? Where is the knowledge that specious messianic “re-engineering” talk is perverse and immoral?

  9. Yes, we are “consumers” looked at from an outside perspective — the perspective of the corporate investor. From a human perspective, we are product-users and citizens, and we regret and fight the consumption of things.

    If ordinary people’s would-be champions can’t get that much straight, I wonder what our chances are.

    The bigger question is how one thinks cultures change, as a matter of evidence and practicality. In our epoch of “civilization,” cultures have increasingly bent to the needs of power structures.

    Personally, I’ve never been convinced that, in this situation, “let’s change our culture” haranguing on the topic has any substantial effect. Cultures adapt to institutions and circumstances and sharp politics that have clear, realistic targets. In our epoch of “civilization,” they have increasingly been bent to the needs of power structures.

    The Civil Rights Movement won a great blow against racism in the USA by attacking Jim Crow laws, not by haranguing whites about their culture. And at least the CRM knew whites were their main problem. Blaming “consumers” for believing they’re “consumers” is not only blaming the victims, but blaming them for doing something they simply don’t do, as Erik admits.

    And speaking of anthropology, I don’t think it’s clear from our history that living sustainably has ever been “natural” for homo sapiens. We have perhaps a few more decades to make doing so a political choice for the first time. But if we don’t make replacing capitalism the core of the effort, we might as well all start planning for Mad Max times.

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