Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Greenpeace and consumerist fantasies.

Greenpeace have produced an advert with the ostensible aim of showing that 4x4 cars are bad. In fact, the ad actually says that people who drive 4x4 cars in urban areas are bad. Personally, I don't think you need to be driving much around city centres at all, but then I don't drive. The fuck do I know? Maybe that air-conditioned coccoon of reinforced steel is an essential part of getting around. No beggars in a car, eh?

But if you watch the ad, it actually involves an office worker who is totally ostracised by his fellow workers, has his tea spat in, is called a wanker, has insulting notes pinned to his back... because he drives one of these cars. This is all a little bit silly and spiteful, but what strikes me is that the problem resides in the very form of advertising itself. Greenpeace want to disseminate a 'message' in a short, sexy format that doesn't demand too much of your time or intelligence, and which is designed to pander rather than challenge. The intention appears to be to encourage would-be environmentalists to feel smugly superior, to play on their resentment, with the vain hope that they will sign up for or donate to an organisation that makes them feel like that.

Behind it is the classic market-oriented logic in which the problem is not institutions and the fuel-deathlock economy that we're trapped in, but some socially irresponsible individuals who don't purchase wisely. I bet BP wouldn't be at all unhappy to sponsor an advertisement like this, since you can predict that it would have no negative effect on their sales while raising their profile among those sympathetic to environmentalists. Because BP, as everyone knows, is Beyond Petroleum. Soon, boys and girls, BP will supply a range of low-carbon fuels for today's active lifestyle. Like low-tar cigarettes, they will kill you a little more slowly, but they will provide the animating illusion that by spending a little more or choosing a different pump or engine, all will be well. At the moment, they are already pushing a Carbon Credit scheme, in which you will pay for BP's destruction of the environment by funding some renewable energy sources. Your conscience can rest a little easier. And you'll need that moral credit, once you've finished pissing in your co-worker's beer and stuffing potatos up his exhaust pipe.