By guest contributor Matt Mellen
The Rainforest Alliance undoubtably does good work enabling more ethical brands to demonstrate they contribute to rainforest conservation so that conscientious consumers can make better choices. Products and brands bearing their frog logo have demonstrated that they have achieved an established standard of sustainability. However, in their new advert (promoted by Upworthy), they seem to suggest that buying sustainable products is all we have to do. We don’t need to: protest, block bulldozers, think differently or change our lives – just buy the right brands and environmental problems will melt away. By presenting this idea to the world aren’t they in fact undermining efforts to create the scale of change we need to protect rainforests that are under sustained violent attack?
“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best’. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” Winston Churchill
In 2008 Tom Compton wrote a brilliant report for WWF challenging this way of thinking called Weathercocks & Signposts. I sincerely hope Rainforest Alliance take a look. They could continue to do their work with brands but also encourage their customers to think differently, live differently and where appropriate take part in effective, globally-coordinated protests. If we ask ourselves honestly – “what will it take to create a world in which other species can thrive” the answer isn’t – choose certain items in the supermarket. As it is, the global economy is an out-of-control machine that destroys wildlife without remorse whilst enriching an increasingly shrinking minority of financiers. It is not just naive to think changing our shopping habits will save the natural world it is dangerous because it stops us taking appropriate action.
The time for “keep calm and carry on” is long gone. We need to organise and fight corporations that damage the natural world and change governments that facilitate their actions. Compton’s report demonstrates how these behaviours as well as lifestyle changes are based on shifts in our underlying values:
“As our understanding of the scale of environmental challenges deepens, so we are also forced to contemplate the inadequacy of the current responses to these challenges. By and large, these responses retreat from engaging the values that underpin our decisions as citizens, voters and consumers: mainstream approaches to tackling environmental threats do not question the dominance of today’s individualistic and materialistic values.
Weathercocks and Signposts critically reassesses current approaches to motivating environmentally-friendly behaviour change. Current behaviour-change strategies are increasingly built upon analogy with product marketing campaigns. They often take as given the ‘sovereignty’ of consumer choice, and the perceived need to preserve current lifestyles intact. This report constructs a case for a radically different approach.
It presents evidence that any adequate strategy for tackling environmental challenges will demand engagement with the values that underlie the decisions we make – and, indeed, with our sense of who we are.”
Read the full report here