Saturday, December 1, 2007

the bandwagon

I'm reading an interesting book right now about the genesis and trajectory of institutional fads. You know, the stuff like TQM, Six Sigma, standards testing, and other organizational re-orgs that seasonally take hold of education, medicine or business. The author talks about why fads take place in our culture (our belief in progress is one reason) and talks about why people decide to join fads.
I am thinking about this in the context of what I think our culture's current 'rage' is: environmentalism and "sustainable" and organic and everything. It's the buzz! Everyone is talking about it! My grandmother, who lives in a very small Michigan town and does not have access to the internet, took pains to assure me that her garden is "organic" the other day. I don't mean to belittle my grandma: she has been "organic" before the term had cache. She grew up in the Depression, when people didn't think about recycling and reusing--if you didn't do that, you did without. It's our culture that's weird--when organic is a pose or an unorthodox (or now, orthodox) choice.
My fear is that my own nascent environmentalism will cool, along with the hype. Or that our culture's concern will be 'greenwashed' out of us. Part of me feels cynical, now that all our marketing gurus are figuring out how to use this fad to generate even more consumption. It's just terribly ironic, no?
I don't think it's inevitable that everyone's enthusiasm for this greening trend will fade--I think there are elements of this paradigm shift that must take hold, because our planet literally can't sustain us and China and India living like we've been living. We all have to slow down. And yet, I worry that the fact that this feels like a fad will make it easier for us all to opt out, slow down, and lose interest. Is it possible for our generation and culture to pay attention for longer than one news cycle? Is it possible for us to really change the way we live?
I don't know. And I hate the fact that I, too, join the bandwagon when it suits me, when it's cool, and there's a great movie about it. Would that change would come...well, more organically.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Yes, environmentalism and organic everything has become a very big fad lately. And I guess, as fads go, it’s not too bad of one to have. Though, as always with fads, people try to make the big, visible, attention-getting statements, instead of small, sustainable, little everyday things that I think really make a difference. I look back on growing up and realize that my Dad was (and still is), in his own way, a closet-environmentalist. Growing up, we were only allowed to take 10 minute showers, which as a girl with long hair, I thought was completely ridiculous. Mom was always yelling at him to stop digging through the trash to pull out things to put in the recycling can (which, to this day, their recycling trash can is always stuffed full, while the normal trash can is less than 1/3 full). And he was constantly on all of us to turn off the light / TV when we walked out of a room, and switched to lower-watt bulbs and then the energy-saving bulbs. I always thought that he was just anal about wasting money, but in truth, he was actually concerned about wasting our planets resources. To me, this is the kind of people we should all strive to be – quietly doing the right thing in small ways because it’s the right thing to do, not trying to play the “look at me” game, like “my giant SUV (that-still-guzzles-more-gas-than-a-car) is a HYBRID!” or “I ONLY eat ORGANIC foods now!”

So now when I see people like Al Gore speaking on how we all need to do our part to conserve, and then learn that the lights on the outside of his home come on every night whether anyone is home or not, all I can think is hypocrite!