Ethical Consumerism and Glocal Slactivists

This video, produced and distributed by Greenpeace (the transnational implications of which I think will yield a discussion too much for this blog post, so I’m not even going there), depicts the environmental impacts of clothing factories that produce garments in impoverished regions for sale by major brands and chains in wealthier nations. Greenpeace lauds the efforts of activists, bloggers, models, designers, etc. to persuade big brands such as Zara, H&M, Valentino, and UNIQLO to commit to “toxic-free fashion” – manufacturing their product in ways that don’t contribute to environmental destruction or degradation of human health and livelihood. Of course, consumers also operate in this, compelled to boycott brands that fail to exhibit corporate social responsibility lest they play a complicit role. People often go out of their way to purchase products that have been manufactured responsibly, readily paying higher prices for organic or fair trade coffee, chocolate, textiles, jewelry – nearly every kind of good boasts a brand of this type.

Reading We Need New Names has left me fixated on the implications of humanitarianism in a globalized or transnational context – which is, of course, necessarily the arena in which humanitarian efforts are undertaken as the local becomes increasingly global.

It can be argued that ethical consumerism is effective in that it is a manageable and accessible way to contribute positively to the global good; a small alteration in an American’s habits that ostensibly better the lives of coffee farmers in Guatemala. But is it effective? Is ethical consumerism simply a mode of “slacktivism”? What even constitutes slacktivism, and is remote involvement always categorically defined as such? How can we categorize the effectiveness of the transnational reach of such efforts? Are these questions even answerable in the forum of our class blog?? Comment and let’s find out!

– Isabella Mckinley-Corbo

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