Friday, July 04, 2008

Virtuous Consumer

Written to my local morning news channel today:
I was watching this morning when your "Virtuous Consumer" came on air with "green" baby products.

I want to tell you first that the term "virtuous consumer" is at best a misnomer, and more likely deliberately deceptive. It's offensive. Consumption is the problem, it is not a virtue. It is also region-specific: while we in the West consume, the rest of the planet starves.

Second, the idea of the segment really IS offensive. it's irresponsible journalism to indicate to the general population not only that consumption is a virtue, but that these products actually help the environment. You're lying to your viewers. You imply that phosphate free detergent for the thousands of baby clothes they own or buying a few glass bottles will help. It won't. What would have helped most is not having the baby in the first place.

What's worse, you foster a false sense of responsibility in your viewers: If I buy these products, they think, I will be helping. I'm not preaching from some ascetic moral high ground here. I consume as well. But at least I have the decency to feel guilty about it, and to take steps to reduce consumption, rather than painting a thin green veneer on my selfish activities so I can feel smug about them. Green consumption is still consumption, and doesn't help the broader problem of resource depletion.

I'd like to see A Channel, and CTV more broadly, adopt a far more responsible attitude toward resource depletion and the environmental crisis. I shan't hold my breath.

Respond to this how you wish. I don't seriously expect you to pull the segment (or any of the other "green" product placements you do), to change the name or to start advocating for less stuff for all of us (I'm sure your sponsors would love that). Dismiss me as a crackpot or a crank, or an "eco-terrorist". I don't care how you react. It'd take more than one regional morning show to make a difference anyway.

I just thought you ought to know that at least one person sees through it, and cares enough to point it out.
I'll let you know how/if they respond.

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