Consuming Narratives: the political ecology of alternative consumption

Author: 
Michael Goodman
Publication Date: 
2004
Summary: 
This paper examines how political ecology themes of tropical conservation and social justice become representational practices underpinning ‘alternative’ consumption in the North.
Abstract: 
The notion of commodity culture is adopted to understand the ambiguous rationalities and ethical assumptions of two sets of consumption practices. The first case considers Edenic myth-making used to assimilate concerns over tropical deforestation in the South to consumption-intensive if conservation-minded lifestyles in the North. The second case looks at fair trade and how concern about social injustice and unfair labour practices in the South is harnessed to solidarity-seeking consumption constitutive of ‘radical’ lifestyles. The paper suggests these contrasting commodity cultures broadly conform to divergent positions in red–green debates. It argues that both are weakened as a form of social and political ‘caring at a distance’ due to an uncritical acceptance of consumption as the primary basis of action.