If you read only the major media our species still comes off as shortsighted and self-interested.
The Wall Street Journal’s recent feature on “When to Buy Organic,” answered its question purely on the grounds of various health threats from pesticides, heavy metals and persistent toxins. Worse yet, the writer gave the impression that although organics were originally part of a movement to protect the environment, the market is now maturing into health-related products. Implicitly, the story didn’t recognize any other reason to buy organic products. The story didn’t describe the environmental benefits of organic agriculture, even though the main reason that people buy organic is because it’s good for the environment. Whole Foods’ surveys bear this out. In fact, the major media consistently cover the boom in organic products as though it were driven by self-centered health nuts. Wrong. People care about the environment. Way over half the people who buy organic product say they do so primarily because it benefits the planet.
Vanity Fair’s green issue was the media’s most widely recognized environmental publication of 2006. Take that for what it’s worth. It’s a burr under my saddle, as you can probably imagine.
A recent BBC poll of adults worldwide contradicts what most national leaders around the world are saying these days. The poll indicated that in no country in the world do most people actually believe we’re in a “clash of civilizations.” The vast majority believes there is “no inherent incompatibility” between Islam and the West. Even in the Middle East, people see our international conflicts as political or economic in nature. They believe we will find common ground and end the violence. Egypt had the largest percentage who believed “violence is inevitable,” and they only made up 43 percent of the Egyptians surveyed.
And in the meantime, fair-trade products, locally produced food, organic clothing, and hybrid automobiles are all exploding in popularity — even though they are significantly more expensive than their mass-marketed alternatives — while the major media struggle to explain these trends in terms of frugality and self-interest. The popularity of the Prius took everyone by surprise, even Toyota, and it persists even when gas prices are falling. No one predicted the speed and scope of the expansion of Whole Foods, not even Whole Foods.
Who would have thought, a decade ago, that today 100 million people worldwide would be starting little businesses with money provided, for partially altruistic reasons, by micro-lenders? Certainly it’s not what the world’s giant banks expected.
People care, and they’re doing something about it. People are taking a personal interest in improving both their society and their planet.
Photo by Bryan Welch
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