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In Search of a Socialist Lorax

Categories: Corporate Behavior, Green Consumerism, Pop Culture

He Speaks for the Trees

I just read The Lorax to my kids again (and did funny voices to boot, which made my wife visibly cringe).  Everytime I do, however, I think about this really stellar and well-written article by Maniates called “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?”

The article itself – very accessible, especially for an academic piece – gives a great description of an underlying problem in an otherwise sweet little book.  (And I specifically set up storytime with this book to encourage the kids to take care of the earth).  The short version (read the whole thing!) is that Seuss’ fable presents the solution to environmental crises as occurring through the aggregate of individual action.  In other words, if committed people can motivate themselves to plant trees, take care of them, and make the right purchases, the world will get better.  Noticeably absent from Seuss’ tale, however, are things like polluter pays laws, and regulations that would have stopped the Once-ler from destroying the Truffula forest in the first place – or at least held him legally and financially responsible after he did.

Not picking on Seuss, though.  It’s a nice book.  But we should be aware that individual action, especially in a market economy, will only have very limited effect on systematic environmental and political problems.  In the meantime, enjoy the video:

Environmentalists Need Better Music

Categories: Pop Culture, Uncategorized

I was thinking about the impending return of the US Army from Iraq, and listening to one of the best anti-war songs ever.  “Hell Broke Luce” by Tom Waits.  Check it out below:

Yet, for some reason, it’s extremely difficult to find music that’s as driven and angry as that about the environment.  Why?  It’s  not for lack of severity of the issue.  Clearly, war and conflict bring death and misery to millions.  But so does environmental catastrophe.  In fact, as far back as 1994, Robert Kaplan argued that environmental scarcity, worsened in the coming years by population increases, rapid growth in consumption, and depleted resources, would lead to conflict.  More recently, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a security-based think tank in DC, echoed Kaplan, indicating that environmental and energy concerns should be a matter of top priority (PDF) given the emerging relationship between natural resources and warfare.

However, short of a slew of angry songs that came out directly in response to Hurricane Katrina (Public Enemy!), environmental music tends to be fairly tepid.  Don’t get me wrong – I like Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi as much as the next guy, but I wish the environmental movement had songs that sounded less like polite missives and genteel observations, and more like anger about the current state of affairs.  (And Lord, do not get me started on the horror that is the Counting Crows version).  Indeed, given the link between environmental mismanagement and other sociopolitical areas that inspire fury – racism, classism, inequality – the lack of vehemence is even more surprising.  I’d love to be proven wrong, but so far, driven music is the exception, not the norm.

So, here are two of the exceptions: “DDT” by Suicide Machines (corporate greed and the promulgation of toxins) and “Countdown to Extinction” by Megadeth (rampant biodiversity loss).  Enjoy.


Countdown to Extinction

Another Reason to Hate Expendables 2 Before it Comes Out

Categories: Pop Culture, Uncategorized

Bats Are Awesome

If you’re like me, you remember 2010 as a year of unheralded promise.  That was the year that The Greatest Action Stars on Earth (Lundgren!  Stallone!  Rourke!  Statham!  Even their names sound like punching) promised us the most steroid-driven movie ever.  The Expendables!  Boom!  Killing!  However, instead of wall-to-wall, brightly lit explosions and snappy one-liners (like “Stick around”), we got a dull, turgid, impenetrable affair.

Inevitably, the movie made its money back, and then some, so the Hollywood Machine has decided (sigh) to crank out a sequel.  Why not?  Industry bloat and guaranteed rates of return.  Well, it turns out that, in addition to lowering my expectations to Judge Dredd levels, Expendables 2 (Van Damme!  Norris!),

A Great Site for Some Killin

currently in production, is also coming under environmental criticism.  Part of the shooting schedule takes place near the Devetashka Cave in Bulgaria, which happens to be habitat to 40 endangered bat species, and one of the top 3 bat colonies in Europe.

As of right now, the producers have already paid fines for cutting shrubbery near the cave, and have promised to “…refrain from explosions, car chases and fires near the cave.”  Fair enough.  Hopefully they can also refrain from making a terrible movie.