Production is the Issue

Like the book from which it springs, this blog is called “The Consumer Trap.” By this phrase, I mean several things at once. Corporate capitalism is, I contend, a giant historic trap. That is the deepest claim.

But I also mean to protest against the foolish Frankfurt School suggestion that, under our epoch’s over-productive economy, the main strategic locus of politics and society somehow shifted from the boardroom to the bedroom — that we are somehow in an era in which “consumption” (meaning the ways we acquire and use commercial products) is the great question of our age.

This is a rather dull reaction to actual institutions and affairs. Our problem is no less one of macro-choice and investment (aka production) than it ever was. A sea of stuff, non-stop corporate entertainment, and increasingly commercialized off-the-job habits are all trends that emanate from elite dictation, not popular preference. But that is news to Herb Marcuse, who argued the opposite (without ever actually looking).

All of which brings me to this photograph:

That is the back of last night’s pizza box. It is one example of what’s wrong with talking about “consumption.” The manufacturer of this box is, no doubt, one or another major timber-and-paper conglomerate. That entity is certainly all too aware that greasy food containers DO NOT recycle. Yet, as we see here, that knowledge doesn’t lead to retraction of this dishonest little message. Why miss a chance to suppress and combat your customers’ actual concerns?

Corporate product producers are always biased in favor of lying and tricking and cheating to achieve their aims. Until we get back to studying how and why this happens, we will continue to chase our own tails in circles.

Liberal Practicality as Science

pimp Just encountered a new example of our old friend, liberal practicality. This time, it’s not craven Democratic Partiers, but high-minded scientists:

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems.

How, then, does UCS justify its pimping of overclass attempts to extend the Age of the Automobile, to say nothing of its perhaps even more craven and anti-scientific shilling for “biofuels”?

Well, the answer comes right there in the same “About Us” blurb that begins with the above claims to rigor, objectivity, and seriousness:

Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

“Effective” and “practical,” of course, both mean the same thing: politically safe within existing arrangements. Or, even more plainly, hopelessly insufficient.

The results? Take a look at this chart, which shows UCS’ view of the advantages of so-called “electric vehicles” in the three power-generation regions of the United States. Not only might you find it pretty newsworthy to see that UCS’ label for the dirtiest energy-production regions of the country are the “Good” area, but check out the baseline for this bogus EV pitch — a regular car that gets 27 MPG!

What would happen to the UCS numbers if one were to use the MPG rating of the best existing gas cars?

That number is 37, which is 37 percent higher than 27. It doesn’t take much scientific rigor to figure out that a rather base trick is afoot here.

The only possible scientific attitude to automobiles is that they were and are a capitalist pipedream and also a dire threat to the future of human civilization. The only possible genuinely practical policy recommendation is for radical reconstruction of towns and cities to facilitate non-automotive locomotion. To the extent continued car-use must be a transitional part of that larger plan, the only conceivably rational and honest recommendation is to advise people to always buy the best available regular-gas car, and to push for imposition of radically higher MPG rules and heavy taxes on gas guzzlers, which should be defined as all automobiles not within a few MPG of the best available models.

Shame on you, UCS!

Beyond Orwell

TCT‘s editor is one of those lefties who loves him some Orwell.  But, seriously, that dude would only be able to stammer these days.

Get this:

The maker of Agent Orange and one-time promoter of DBCP of Bhopal fame, presently the world’s second largest chemical corporation, is painting itself green because some of its products have been used to build the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympics!

Bazinga, Eric Blair!

Update on Terracycle

TCTer Johnny “The Bull” Bravo posted what follows as a comment on an old post about the recycling-based marketing-data harvester Terracycle. The comment is so good and so important, Senor Bravo has the unsolicited honor of being TCT’s first-ever guest post-author:

You might find this interesting (download it, terracycle might take it offline after they read this comment):

Terracycle “Brigades” sales pitch e-brochure

Check especially:
slide 9 “Proprietary data on collection organizations”
slide 26 and 44.

It’s a presentation directed at companies interested in partnering with Terracycle to collect their waste. It puts a strong focus on the marketing value of “consumers” no longer regarding their packaging as waste, thus consuming more (as a result of reduced guilt)… It is also mentioned that reused branded packaging equals millions of dollars worth in advertising space. Whereas Terracycle publicly states to be collecting waste because it is a valuable resource, companies are required to pay “per shipment” fees to Terracycle for every box of their waste collected by consumers.

The ecological efficiency of actions like sending in 5 plastic bags by mail (to get a reusable bag in return), is questionable. The marketing value is less questionable (see slide 32).

Normal recycling companies need bulk waste collection and processing, and then still aren’t able to make the numbers work for such low-value waste. But then again, they are just selling a product, not an image.

It seems Terracycle has, to say the least, changed to not only reusing and recycling because it is efficient and ecological, but also as a tool to clean up corporations image, at least sometimes, in a way which is disproportionate to the actual reduction in ecological impact by the measures taken. Which might just be the definition of greenwashing.

[TCT blogmaster’s note: TCT has taken the forbidden* liberty of downloading the whole brochure. One item that caught my eye is this one from page 9: The “other benefits” of contracting with Terracycle include “exclusivity in category.” Any corporation, in other words, that makes a deal with Terracycle to use its greenwashing endorsement and access its marketing data harvest gets to have its products be the only ones “in category” that can be collected by Terracycle. That right there is the kill-shot to the weak-to-begin-with claim that Terracycle exists to aid the environment. “Exclusivity in category” means that Terracycle refuses to “help” recycle two or more products in the same marketing slot from different makers. How green is that?]
*Interestingly, logically, and typically, Terracycle does not want its real plans disclosed to “consumers,” so pastes this note at the bottom of every page of the brochure: “Proprietary and Confidential. Do not Distribute Without Prior WrittenPermission from TerraCycle.” It will be interesting to see if Terracycle, which was quick to chime in on our prior post, asks TCT to take down the brochure…

Archdruid of Ideology

Back in April, I said “there’s no way John Michael Greer has read Karl Marx.”

That’s confirmed today, as the Archdruid writes this howler:

Marxism reached its high-water point in the 1950s and then receded, as the golden promises of Das Kapital gave way to gray bureaucratic inefficiency and, in time, total systemic failure.

ROFL.  What “golden promises” would those be?  Anybody who had actually read Capital would be well aware of the fact that it contains exactly zero promises of any kind.  Seriously.  Take a look.

In reality, of course, Karl Marx was hugely affected by the work of Justus von Liebig, the coiner of “Liebig’s Law,” which points out that ecosystems are only as strong as their weakest links.

The Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids, however, can’t be bothered to crack an actual book he doesn’t like for entirely a priori and conventional reasons, despite his claim to value rebellious thought and varied opinions and analyses.

The degree to which even the wildest forms of green thinking remain utterly  captive to conventional American dogma is truly astounding, and not a little scary.