Concluding Thoughts

This semester, I was a bit skeptical on what exactly this class would entail. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. A wide variety of topics important to this day and age have been discussed including health, science, and the environment. It was a very interesting and eye-opening course and it really made me think about what was really going on in the world. I have become more aware about what kinds of information I’m really getting when I view advertisements and I now encourage myself to think deeper about them. I find myself looking up more background information on different commercials more often because of this class.

The state of the environment and the significant impact that humans have had on it has raised many concerns for me. What will life be like 10 years from now? 20 years? 50? It has become apparent that we as humankind must come together to try to solve the problem of impending environmental disaster. The various documentaries we have watched really put the nail in the coffin for me and I have been seeking out more and more ways to help implement changes towards environmental views.

I am concerned more now than ever about the state of our planet and I will do what I can as an individual to help. Communication is key and without a good understanding of what is really happening, how can we hope to accomplish anything worthwhile?

How Some Corporations are Starting to Go Green

The deep concern that America (as well as other countries) has about whether or not it’s too late to go green is finally starting to affect larger corporations in a push to become more environmentally friendly. More and more businesses are buying into cleaner, renewable energy sources every year now that the public is pressing for drastic changes to help ward off the inevitable climate change. Companies such as General Motors have made pledges to start using wind power for one of their Texas facilities later this year, and Walmart has become the leading on-site solar adopter in America, installing solar panels on the roofs of its big-box stores and warehouses.

Other companies joining the cause include Intel Corp. as they attempt to decrease their own carbon footprint by installing solar panels and trimming down their power usage. Whole Foods is also planning to switch to solar power for over 100 of its stores in an effort to effort to establish a more environmentally friendly image. As more and more large-scale businesses start to turn to renewable energy, many people feel that there is a chance that the environment can still be saved in the future. However, most of the above mentioned companies ‘planning’ on going green don’t see any of the bigger changes until around 2020. Hopefully by this time, there will have been so many more active changes to renewable energy sources that corporations can then start to focus on more ways to help the recuperation of the environment.

Will Amazon (Finally) Go Green?

eos Lip Balm Commercial

I’ve recently become aware of a commercial for a new cosmetic product called “eos organic lip balm” that made me really question the facts about this product. The 15 second advertisement features a happy looking couple walking around in some sort of farmers market with the actual product only being seen for about 2 seconds. This product is shown as being “USDA Organic” at the end of the ad, but we don’t really see how it’s organic. The imagery used in the commercial (as well as in many greenwashed ads) tries to evoke a sense of ‘wow this product is really environmentally friendly! I should use that product to make my life seem as good as the happy couple in that commercial!’ There are no facts or statistics shown in the ad to convince the audience of its organic nature other than the narrator saying it’s organic and the USDA stamp on the product. How much of the product is made of organic materials? What components are organic? For all we know, the only organic thing about it could be the plastic casing it’s kept in.

Many advertisements showcasing cosmetic products are becoming more and more greenwashed to seem more appealing to customers who are concerned for the environment. But what does it really mean for a cosmetic to be organic? According to the FDA, cosmetics made with ingredients are not necessarily safer for consumer or the environment. Another interesting fact is that the USDA is legally required to keep to the FDA’s regulations and laws for using organic products, but the FDA doesn’t actually have a definition for the term “organic”.

Because of this class, I have been paying much more attention to picking out the details (or lack thereof) about greenwashed products form advertisements whether I notice it happening or not. This new commercial I viewed sparked a string of questions about it’s “organic” qualities and why they weren’t actually described in the advertisement itself.


Can You Really “Buy” Nature?

For as long as green advertising, green-washing, and other methods of environmental marketing have been around, there have been attempts to sell the concept of “nature” as a tangible product. Many tourist attractions around the world become successful simply by offering what the average human cannot obtain these days– a slice of nature. It seems odd to think that many businesses tend to cash in on the prospect of “selling the environment” to its consumers through means of providing certain uncommon experiences to people looking for ways to connect with their environment. All in all, it’s a great tactic that continues to rake in massive revenues every year around the world thanks to societies’ desire to interact with nature. However, it can take some truly philosophical minds to come to a conclusion on whether or not one can actually “buy” nature.

So many people are living in ways that can’t afford to encounter natural environments due to money, time, or means of attaining it, which is when businesses come into play. When referring to the “marketing of nature”, it can be reasonably assumed that this is done primarily through acts of advertising some sort of tourism to a non-human formed environment, exploiting just how deprived humans have become from true environmental interaction. Should humans reserve the right to “sell nature” to others? Should we as people be allowed to regulate how often society interacts with natural environments based on tourism desire or monetary value? These (and many more) are all very plausible questions to consider when thinking about such a strange topic.

Kind of Like a Turf War

One of the strangest revelations I’ve had in this class is that in American culture, the appearance of a front lawn can have a fairly significant impact on how a person is perceived by others and how they in turn perceive the environment. Unlike many other countries, the average American neighborhood is composed of individual houses separated by a good sized yard (usually at least a front yard). Strangely enough, lawn keeping could be seen as a way to indicate the status of ones wealth by appearing neat and well-kept with a spacious grassy area and pleasant landscaping. This implies that whoever own the lawn (and with it the house) must have the time, money, and resources available to maintain such a beautiful looking lawn. Most other countries do not separate their houses/living spaces in this way either because of space limits, necessity, or the fact that having a very unfriendly and unnatural environment in front of your house just seems plain weird.

Yes, lawns are highly unnatural environments in and of themselves, nor are they really “green” as many would come to believe. A neatly mowed lawn was most likely never there when the land was first used to build houses on it. The measures needed to maintain these grassy areas often times involve the use of harmful chemical agents, heavy machinery, and expensive, unnatural landscaping to keep them in pristine condition. The practice of artificial landscaping for American living spaces seems odd to me now that I realize just how out of place these flat, golf course-like spaces are. Along with this, lawns seem to give people the illusion that they have their own environment with the ability to control every aspect of it. This idea is very common in American culture but it is a very misconstrued concept due to the fact that humans simply cannot control the environment they live in (they can influence it, yes, but they cannot control it outright).

In these ways, the idea of having some sort of lawn or yard around a house has made me become aware of just how artificial the illusion of control really is. It’s strange to think about such a simple, every-day matter like this which might be why having lawns seems to be a much less popular idea to other countries.

The Impacts of Mass Agriculture on the Environment

According to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Nestle corporation, “By 2050, the world will have to feed more than nine billion people. To meet this demand, current levels of global food production must double.” Because of the world’s exponentially increasing population, agricultural means have been forced to increase productivity to be able to support this trend. However, with the growing need of large farming operations around the world also comes the destructive qualities it brings to the environment. Some of the most prominent impacts mass agriculture has had on the earth’s environment are habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and erosion to the earth’s surface.

According to the well-known conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF), about 50% of earth’s habitable land has been converted into some kind of farm land. “This area is still expanding. It is predicted that in developing countries, a further 120 million hectares of natural habitats will be converted to farmland to meet demand for food by 2050. This will include land with high biodiversity value.” These inevitable changes will mean the end of many species of wildlife as their habitats are converted into monoculture environments. Some of the more recent examples of this mass conversion occurs in large areas of the Brazilian savannah and the Amazon have been turned into cattle and soybean farms, as well as areas of the Indonesian rainforests becoming palm oil plantations.

Pollution has also become a very concerning problem as it can directly affect the health of the world’s population and its environments. Due to widespread farming, the use of contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers has increased about 26 times what was used 50 years ago to produce larger large crops. Due to run-off, these chemicals travel to the world’s water supply and into marine environments as well, disrupting the natural nutrient levels of the water resulting in eutrophication—an increased growth in algae due to an excess of nutrients in the water. The algae in turn depletes the oxygen in the water and is capable of suffocating massive populations of fish and other marine life.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t seem to have a solution for this problem as the needs of the population must be met as time passes. Hopefully through a better understanding of our environment, humans can help reduce the negative effects that mass agriculture has on the earth.

The Corporate Hold on Science

When taking a look at how the American population perceives its ability to analyze how the communication of scientific ideas is distributed, one can quickly see how many aspects of science are left in the dark. Society as we know it has been changing rapidly over time to produce only handfuls of “mega-corporation rulers”. These rulers can be largely attributed to what kinds of information is put out to the public by way of internet, television, or other forms of media. To an extent, corporations such as these are able to control what their consumers see and how they perceive it while tailoring the information to their needs to gain more control. There are many examples of this happening throughout history including projects like Tesla’s free energy plan being kept away from the public among others.

It seems to be that when scientists discover something that has the potential to aid the public in a way that impedes with how the major corporations do business (like providing a service more efficiently than the corp.), they tend to jump in on it. Often times, these kinds of businesses will attempt to take control over whatever the latest scientific breakthroughs have to offer. This could be from either funding the project or having the scientists work under them to ensure that only the information necessary to the consumer is put out and to help maximize any profit gained. Other examples include government information that would be beneficial to the public, many medical commercials withhold important facts about product effects, and most television providers neglect the appearance of scientific segments on cable news.

In these ways, it is becoming more and more prominent how science seems to cater to the corporations in how the vast majority of today’s media is controlled by only several key companies who are able to modify how the public receives information both scientific or otherwise.