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The Gift of Death
George Monbiot, Monbiot.com
There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map.
They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.
Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).
But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent…
(10 December 2013)
The more we hate it, the more it agrees with us. How advertising turned anti-consumerism into a secret weapon
Adam Corner, aeon magazine
…If you’re one of the more than 7 million people who have watched the global fast-food chain Chipotle’s latest advertisement, you’ll have experienced this sleight of hand for yourself. The animated short film — accompanied by a smartphone game — depicts a haunting parody of corporate agribusiness: cartoon chickens inflated by robotic antibiotic arms, scarecrow workers displaced by ruthless automata. Chipotle’s logo appears only at the very end of the three-minute trailer; it is otherwise branding-free. The motivation for this big-budget exposé? ‘We’re trying to educate people about where their food comes from,’ Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, told USA Today, but ‘millennials are sceptical of brands that perpetuate themselves’…
In the UK, the telecommunications giant Orange creates cinema ads which are spoof scenes from well-known feature films, doctoring the scripts to include gratuitous references to cell phones. One popular instalment features the actor Jack Black recreating a scene from Gulliver’s Travels (2010), in which Gulliver is captured by the tiny Lilliputians and lashed to the ground with ropes. As the product placements for Orange become increasingly blatant, Black realises he has been tricked into acting in a cellphone ad, breaks character and begins a speech about how he won’t be duped by Orange. ‘Don’t let a mobile phone ruin your film’ runs the slogan. It’s annoying, but they know this. And they know that you know that they know. And … well you get the gist.
These ads want to be our friends — to empathise with us against the tyranny of the corporate world they inhabit. Just when we thought we’d cottoned on to subliminal advertising, personalised sidebars on web pages, advertorials and infomercials, products started echoing our contempt for them. ‘Shut up!’ we shout at the TV, and the TV gets behind the sofa and shouts along with us…
(28 November 2013)
Should We Prioritize Measuring Happiness?
Huff Post Live
HuffPost’s Third Metric seeks to redefine success beyond money and power. As part of our ongoing series, we are looking at how experts are urging Uncle Sam to follow suit with other countries and be more in touch with our feelings. With John Helliwell, Richard Heinberg, Carol Graham and Gloria Roheim McRae
(13 December 2013)
Link to the World Happiness report
Shopping teaser image via Londoninflames/flickr – Creative Commons 2.0 license.