Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Tis the season, Pt. I

As some of you may know, I hate(d) Christmas. Perhaps I hate it because it was something the other kids had when I was growing up. Perhaps it's because it's so nauseatingly omnipresent for a full three months of every year (the Madison oldies station has already been playing Christmas music for three weeks! And not just Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, but songs like Christmas Shoes [with the line I want her to look beautiful/If mama meets Jesus tonight] and Destiny's Child 8 Days of Christmas [which holds up "a pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring, a crop jacket with dirty Denim jeans, and the keys to a CLK Mercedes" among the ultimate perfect gifts]). And especially because it promotes (not just promotes--forces!) the worst kind of deep-down, dirty consumerism that I hate most.

In any case, I have much more to say about Christmas, and with "the holidays" coming on, it's probably a safe bet that I'll keep writing about it, but the initial topic I intended to write about in the first place was the impact of our consumer choices, and how hard it is to reconcile all the different forces that go into the purchase of a single winter coat (at least for me). Now, I'll just admit upfront that I'm one of those environmentalists who focuses on consumption, even as I know that the decisions made by corporations and huge entities like universities have so much more impact than whether or not I put a brick in my toilet tank (to use the analogy Bill Cronon uses in his environmental history lectures) or do any of the other 50 things I can do to save the earth. And the end of the day, I do think our culture stems from the actions each individual takes and the impact that individual has in setting an example for her friends, her children, her classmates, her students, and the people around her (along with, of course, the lobbying and editorial-writing and organizing [and blogging!] that she does).

But I'm the kind of person who gets totally amped by Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff

And the kind of person who can't stop talking about The Better World Shopping Guide, which helps rank lots of different companies and products based on their records with Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement, and Social Justice.

I'm just the kind of person who believes that every individual choice matters, and that change has to start with me, and with you, and with my mother, and with my friends.

But that does not make it easy to buy a winter coat.

To be continued...

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