Regular readers here are no doubt familiar with some of my criticisms of the “green movement” (be it capitalism, primitivism, or whatever).  Of course this is not the same as saying that I’m not greatly concerned about the environment or the Wholeistic health of our planet.  I’m also not at all anti-technology (though I do have a romantic appreciation for many old-timey, non-mechanized methods).  It would seem hugely important, especially at this juncture of time, for us to continue to develop and employ technological solutions to our industrialized world in order to preserve our very survival.  But the idea of some sort of “green-wash” that will solve all our problems and make our world inherently better and sustainable is just bogus.  

Take, for example, the Toyota Prius.  Now, if I didn’t have two-foot ravines of mud to traverse through every April-May, if I didn’t have six months of icy and snowy roads to maneuver over, and if I didn’t have a practical need for the kind of hauling that I’m afforded by my pick-up truck, I would be quite tempted to drive a Prius or some other hybrid or otherwise “more environmentally sound” generation of vehicle.  But technological innovations like the Prius should not be confused for any sort of real, substantive change that we can ride into a bright and promising future.

Why? Because behind any product of a capitalistic system (whether the “market capitalism” of the U.S. and Europe or the “State capitalism” of China, Cuba, and the U.S.S.R.) lies greed, exploitation, and human misery.  What good, really, comes from the Prius when we read things like this:

The National Labor Committee (NLC), a New York-based human rights group, has been investigating working conditions at Toyota Motor Corp., and the labor used to produce its best-selling Prius hybrid cars.

In its 65-page report released in June, NLC includes first-hand testimony of factory conditions in “Toyota City,” outside of Nagoya, Japan — less than 200 miles southwest of Tokyo — where the largest auto company in the world employs some 70,000 people.

The report alleges that Toyota exploits guest workers, mostly shipped in from China and Vietnam. According to the NLC, these workers are “stripped of their passports and often forced to work — including at subcontract plants supplying Toyota — 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while being paid less than half the legal minimum wage.” Workers are forced to live in company dormitories and deported for complaining about poor treatment, the report finds.

Low-wage temporary workers make up one-third of Toyota’s Prius assembly-line workers, mostly in the auto-parts supply chain. They are signed to contracts for periods as short as four months, and are paid only 60 percent of a full-time employee’s wage.

(Paul Abowd, In These Times)

A healthy, sustainable, enjoyable future will of course not only require technologies like that of the Prius, but will have to go even further.  Much further.  And entirely sustainable and zero emission fuels are only the part of it: the materials used to make the vehicle (to stick with this example) will need to be manufactured or extracted in a sustainable, clean and non-toxic manner.  Even more so, our communities, towns and cities are going to have to be planned and re-worked to focus on the efficiency of human movement rather than their current “how many cars can we fit in this thing” lay-out.  As well, our collective mid-set needs to go through a drastic over-haul so that living, working, and playing is thought of from a stance which things of health- our own and our planet’s- at every step of the way.

But even if all of the above were to happen, it would be mere window-dressing that would cover-up a world that is based on the domination and exploitation of humans for the explicit benefit of a relative few.  Yes, I am glad that the Prius is available (for people who can afford it) and increasingly popular, and that SUV’s and the like are going by way of the dinosaurs.  But it’s not the necessary change; it’s not even close to a revolution of any sorts.  The health, happiness, and freedom of humanity it required for a truly sustainable world.  Green capitalism, and its political counterparts throughout the world, affords  us nothing but feeling better from our vantage of privilege (whether its racial privilege, gender privilege, age privilege, geographical privilege, political privilege).  

I would venture to guess that my Tacoma was made at least partially by people under similar circumstances as the Prius was made; one key distinction though is that I get into my truck out of a personal utility (to go where ever I need to go) and don’t feel like that act itself is of any political, social, or environmental progress.  The Prius, along with every other “green” product available for consumption, is sold to us under the guise that it is, and under the lie that our lives and our political system is just fine and free and great, if only everyone else were buying a Prius and eating Ben & Jerry’s and drinking Newman’s Organic coffees from McDonald’s.  The truth, of course, is far away.  Maybe some people are given an artificial and shallow sense of do-goodism from purchasing “green” this or that, but it’s all on the backs of other people’s toil, and at the expense of other people’s freedom.

I’ll wait for the real revolution, thank you.

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