Tuesday, April 17, 2007

For crying out loud...

... Today's Independent highlights a report by Greenpeace on how our appetite for a rare golden wood (merbau) is damaging pristine eco-systems in New Guinea, just as our consumption of mahogany devastated the Amazon - see here.

In the past I'd lamblast the consumer, but I've come to the conclusion I'm doing him and her a disservice. Sure, most of us don't make the extra effort to ensure our purchases are ethical or environmentally sustainable, but ultimately who decides to sell merbau or mahogany or whatever in our shops? The answer, of course, lies with the businesses who peddle these wares.

It's interesting how the companies named and shamed in this report - including Topps Tiles and Floors 2 Go - refused to comment on its findings. That's because the merbau trade was exposed last year, and many other stores - including Jewson and John Lewis - immediately withdrew the wood from sale. These companies have telegraphed their complete lack of respect for the world around them, and I'd love - in hope more than expectation - for their profits to be wiped out by people withdrawing their custom from these stores until they take a more responsible stand on the issue.

Big business - the driving force behind modern consumptive capitalism - is clearly determined to put its profits above anything else. It's a strange irony that this government - so adept at taking responsibility away from the individual in its single-minded pursuit of a nanny state - is impotent when it comes to regulating businesses and ensuring they take responsibility for these kind of destructive actions.

One day mankind will grow out of its obsession with consumerism. It'll understand that constantly spending money doesn't actually breed anything remotely resembling happiness. It's just a shame that the likelihood is that this change will be forced on us by circumstance rather than by our natural ability to evolve to a better state of mind. The vision of the future exlempified in Star Trek - where money has no place and mankind's sole driving force is the desire to better itself - has never felt further away than now...

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