Home > Hesitating > As Offensive as it is Amusing

As Offensive as it is Amusing

There’s a side porch on the third floor of my apartment in between my hovel and that in the rear of the building. On the ground underneath the bench decorated with Parisian landmarks lay three peeps– the disgusting yellow (traditionally) marshmallow chicks that plague Easter baskets– alongside a can of spray varnish. This is not the project of anyone I live with but, out of respect, I carefully hunker down a safe distance from them to smoke a cigarette out of the wind.

A cereal box had been employed to prevent the newly varnished peeps from damaging the floorboards, some variety of Safeway O Organics product that have been increasing in popularity over the past couple of years. Poor people– they hear that organic foods are the thing to do, so right and so correct, but they don’t know anything about what that means or what it entails. Lucky for them Safeway discovered this niche and has provided “over 150 exclusive organic items” for purchase. Now you can get your box of organic cereal and you’ve done your part– no need to worry about any of the messy agricultural or transportation or distribution or economic implications involved. Look, the express aisle’s open and there’s no line.

Mildly offensive– as offensive as it is amusing– but nothing to start setting fire to shit over… or is it? On the back panel of the box there’s a colorful depiction of South America. The earnest copywriter who landed this contract entices: “Take Organic Living on the Road”. There’s an invitation for me, the viewer, to take advantage of “naturally beautiful eco-friendly vacation destinations…” next time I’m traveling abroad. The recommendations? The Dominican Republic, The Galapagos Islands, Chile and Brazil.

Nothing to special about the D.R.– just one more place with Club Med sanctuaries for Mr. and Mrs. White 1st World to play in the tropics for pennies on the dollar. Chile doesn’t seem too wild although there’s a suggestion that Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island (which is actually Tristan da Cunha) that calls into question the overall validity of my cereal box encyclopedia. Then the real head-scratching begins when you look at Brazil:

Travel through stretches of unexplored rainforest, islands with pristine tropical beaches and endless rivers.

As tempting as it may be to send tourists into the uncharted wilds of the Amazon some latent ethical gland prevents me from willfully pursuing a life as a death-dealing travel agent. It’s not only a bad idea for the personal safety and well-being of idiots booking vacation but it also seems a little less than eco-friendly to have a bunch a shorts and Tevas clad goofballs tramping around the flora and fauna, or that which is left after the clear-cutters came through.

The absolute worst crime against humanity perpetrated by the Safeway Cereal Conglomerate is, by far, best exemplified by their interest in the Galapagos Islands:

…the Galapagos Islands have rich natural history and unique plant and animal life that make it a mecca for ecology enthusiasts.

You’re then invited to scuba dive into the unique plant and animal and swim with sea lions and penguins. For years scientists have been concerned about the unique Galapagos environment being affected by flotsam and jetsam drifting in from us civilized folks the world over. Now the sea turtles and weird blind critters found only here have to contend with idiot eco-tourists alongside castaway nets, Coca-Cola cans and leaky outboard motors.

Poor people– they just don’t know what to do. We’re supposed to eat healthy and, lo and behold, you can now get salad at McDonald’s! How tasty and nutritious and once or twice a week on your lunch break at your McJob you can feel like you’re doing something positive. Unfortunately current laws do not allow me to smash these people in the face with handy bricks while shouting “Stop eating at McDonald’s you stupid fuck!”.

More depressing is the recent reports trickling into the picture that the race to produce biofuels in quantities capable of handling the world’s consumptive prowess is wreaking worse havoc than the use of gasoline. According to George Monbiot, Guardian UK rabble-rouser extraordinaire, evidence has been mounting faster than industrialized nations have been able to ignore it while scripting legislation to phase out fossil fuels. Prices of corn and wheat, used for ethanol production, have skyrocketed while the world supply has dipped causing concern that companies will begin to skip the production of food in favor of fuel. Physical damage can also be seen in Indonesia, Malaysia and South America where natural forests (nature’s weapons against carbon dioxide) are being razed for palm oil, soy and sugarcane plantations. So the environment disappears and what’s left is the smoldering remains and smoke-filled skies with no trees to suck it up, the money flies away to the home company and the product travels from the 3rd to 1st world where people pump it into their extravagant cars. Friends of the Earth have the orangutan populations of both Indonesia and Malaysia as being extinct within ten years.

Meanwhile China won’t stop burning coal as it flies towards becoming the world’s biggest economy. Since it’s already the most populous nation you can imagine the impact this new great leap forward has on the mainland. Of course, the resulting pollution from industrial expansion is never restricted by national borders– something that governments the world over have been very slow to comprehend or, perhaps, admit. China’s expanding middle class love cars and those cars will need to run on some sort of fuel. Will it be the tried and true fossil variety or will it be the new breed of biofuels? Does it matter which fuel?

Poor people. When there’s a problem they try to plug in a solution here or there, find where it fits, then smile and pat each other on the back and carry on with their busy little lives. How will they take the news that their busy little lives may in fact be the problem? How will they take it when they’re told that it’s not the fuel their cars are running on but the dependence on cars themselves? It’s not the pollution of industry but the nature of industry itself?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released the results of a summit in Thailand. In February they managed to accept that there’s a “90%” chance that people have caused global warming– now they’re suggesting that nuclear power and genetically modified agriculture are keys to beating this thing. So when Yucca Mountain hemorrhages and when we find our soil is becoming sterile because the decaying plantlife is missing some compounds are we gonna be able to depend on McDonald’s and Safeway for band-aid solutions? Maybe they’s finally figure out the best way isn’t readily available at the mall.

Categories: Hesitating
  1. Fro
    May 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    ecotourism does have the benefit of bringing money for conservation as well as providing an incentive to not destroy what is left for fear of losing tourist dollars… whether or not it is overall beneficial I do not know

  2. Brendan
    May 2, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I think that the community benefits of eco-tourism differs little if at all from normal tourism– it trickles into community coffers after everyone gets their hand in… All in all I think the term in disingenuous as it implies people interested in ecology go to a place and do something for the ecology… It’s actually people who like doing things in the outdoors going to do things outdoors… Meanwhile there’s a toll exacted from the location– Mount Everest is littered with trash from explorers who were unable to pack up their oxygen tanks and assorted supply waste and bring it down with them… Hell, every space launch leaves debris orbiting the earth… Do the efforts of eco-tourism (or space travel) directly tackle the environment being visited? I’m guessing not but, then again, I’m not in the jet-set crew…

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