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What happened when we demanded that publishers hear the voices of 500,000 of you

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:52:00 +0200

More than half a million people have stood up for free speech and for the Canadian boreal forest, raising their voices to call on the largest global publishers to pay attention and be our allies. We bound the signatures in a handmade book, along with dozens of photos of people in front of significant trees in their communities, showing how much the forest means to all of us. Thank you to each and every one of you that have joined this campaign so far and enabled us to represent people power in a physical object.Seeing what 500,000 names looks like on page after page of a beautiful book is humbling. But it does not even begin to honour what half a million people around the world calling for the same thing can do.Why we are speaking upThe largest global publishers, including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette are buying paper for their books from Resolute Forest Products. This logging company is controversial to say the least. It logs in intact forests and threatened species’ habitat. It has lost environmental certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)on more than 6 million hectares of forestland. And it is suing environmental advocates like Greenpeace that believe the world has a right to know what it is doing.Given the true weight of these books and the seriousness of the topic, we had hopes that the publishers receiving them would also see the gravity of the situation and be compelled to do something.What the publishers had to sayLast Tuesday, Hachette Livre showed that they were ready to act. The third largest publisher in the world wrote an open letter to the CEO of Resolute Forest Products calling its legal attacks on free speech and environmental groups “excessive” asking whether there are not “other ways to deal with Greenpeace’s claims.” Hachette also recognised that it had made promises to its readers to only purchase sustainable paper and that Resolute needs to do better for the forest if it wants to continue to be Hachette’s supplier.Unfortunately Hachette Livre’s leadership in taking this first step is not yet indicative of the entire publishing industry. So last week I visited publisher after publisher, all headquartered in New York City, to deliver the book with its 500,000 signatures to represent the power of the people calling for action.First, we made a delivery to Macmillan in the historic Flatiron building. When we asked the CEO and other company representatives to plan for time to come accept the book, we were instructed to simply leave it with the security guard. They are trying to ignore the voices of 500,000, but for how long? Next we handed over the book to Penguin Random House and received a respectable reception with someone who seemed to appreciate the book and what it represented. I have my fingers crossed that we'll be hearing good things from them again soon. The largest publisher in the world cannot ignore all of us. They cannot ignore the best science, or the promises they have made to their readers and choose inaction which is effectively choosing the side of corporate bullies and a sad future for free speech.We then handed over the book to Simon & Schuster. Unfortunately in order to get the opportunity to hand over the book, I had to promise not to talk about it. So this is me not talking about it. But I can ensure you all that our continued voices are going to be vital with this one.Lastly we headed to the headquarters of the second largest publisher in the world, HarperCollins. Sadly, 500,000 people are not enough to warrant a single person from the company to talk to us. We personally called the Vice President of Corporate Communications and the security guard called up to the front desk. We were once again refused. So our book lies with an uncertain future inside HarperCollins’ mailroom. But what is not uncertain is Greenpeace’s resolve to continue to insist that HarperCollins stands up for free speech and forests. We will not back down and we ask you all to continue to stand with us.Our voic[...]

We speak for the trees

Tue, 06 Jun 2017 21:49:00 +0200

When Resolute Forest Products, Canada’s largest logging company, threw two multi-million dollar lawsuits at Greenpeace and Stand.Earth for speaking out for the protection of the Canadian boreal forest, people around the world did not sit idly by.In over 25 countries around the world, people took to the forest and their most iconic trees to send a message of unity and solidarity in the face of Resolute’s legal attempt to silence its critics and stifle freedom of speech.From the tropics of Indonesia, people gathered in defense of the forests of Canada in front of a giant Kenari Babi tree to send their message to Resolute. Drawing on the symbol of their national flag, a group in Lebanon sent their message from an ancient 3,000 year old cedar tree in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve.From Germany, where the iconic beech forests form a part of their cultural heritage, hundreds of people gathered to tell Resolute that they will not be silenced.Even when Resolute tries underhanded tactics to silence our voices, the forests and trees of the world unite us. Right now, the need for protecting our forests is more important than ever as they are hotbeds of biodiversity and store vast amounts of carbon that we can not afford to release into the atmosphere if we are to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius. And if nothing else, these lawsuits from Resolute show us that the right to speak out is more precious than ever and must be defended.Nothing in nature acts in isolation. From the microscopic chains of fungi in the soil, to the complexities of the animal kingdom, even the earliest scientists observed the world as a vast interconnected ‘web of life’. And so too are we, as a global movement of people, united together for the protection of the forest and in defense of free speech everywhere.Sign the petition to ask book publishers to defend the forests and free speech. Ethan Gilbert is a mobilisation coordinator at Greenpeace Nordic.[...]

Brazil’s president must step down. Here’s why

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 23:54:00 +0200

If you ask Google to translate the Portuguese word “temer”, the result is “to fear”. Temer is the name of the current president of Brazil. And fear is what many Brazilians have been feeling lately.Temer took office after the controversial impeachment process that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff at the end of August 2016. Now, less than a year after later, Temer is not only deeply involved in corruption scandals worthy of a TV series, he’s also slashing human rights and environmental protections across Brazil.The environment Even though Brazil is part of the Paris agreement, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen 29% last year. But instead of strengthening environmental protections, Temer chose a different path. Only a few months after taking office, Temer himself wrote two proposals to reduce protection of 600,000 hectares of the forest in the state of Pará -- an area more than half the size of Jamaica. He’s due to sign these bills any day now, and they are just the beginning. A very conservative Congress and Senate is not only pushing for similar changes to happen in other protected areas in the state of Amazonas, but also discussing ways to make it easier to build big infrastructure projects in the region, such as hydro dams, roads and ports -- all of which would cause more deforestation.President Temer and his allies in the agribusiness lobby are a direct threat not only to the climate and local biodiversity, but also to communities and Indigenous People whose livelihoods depend on the Amazon rainforest.Indigenous rights under threatIndigenous People are fighting for their rights all around the world, including Brazil. The country has long history of violence against Indigenous communities, with dozens of Indigenous People being injured or killed in conflicts with farmers and ranchers over land each year. Violence against Indigenous People has increased exponentially in recent months because of land disputes with farmers.Less than two months ago, more than 3,000 Indigenous People marched in Brasília, the capital of Brazil to protest the rising violence and to demand rights to their ancestral lands. Instead of being received with respect, they were met with police violence, only reaffirming that Temer’s government is not open to dialogue with Indigenous People. The right for free speechAmongst all this outrageous news, Temer is also heavily involved in corruption scandals. In May, shocking accusations were published by the Brazilian media showing the involvement of president in bribery. Still Temer is refusing to resign as political crisis deepens.With approval rates falling into single digits, it is clear that Brazil’s population think their president is not fit to lead the country. Protests are on the rise across Brazil, and citizens are demanding new presidential elections. In response, Temer is using violence to repress the demonstrations. He has even asked for federal troops to intervene in protests. Though this decision was revoked, it sets the tone to how Temer is dealing with public opposition surrounding his office. Political representatives start failing when they start working for the interests of corporations and themselves instead of the public. Greenpeace Brazil believes that only new direct elections can protect the country’s democracy and preserve the environment and social rights.Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace USA[...]

Silent Spring, 2017

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 17:00:00 +0200

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, drawing attention to the impact of DDT on bird populations. Her book inspired most nations to ban DDT by the 1980s. The ban and other protection efforts helped save some bird species from extinction, including the osprey, brown pelican, and white stork. However, fifty-five years after Carson's book, the rate of bird decline has accelerated globally, due to pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, domestic cats, and other threats.A Booby bird takes a rest on board the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza. 22 Nov, 2007In 2004, the Po'ouli or black-faced honeycreeper disappeared from Maui, the last member of its genus Melamprosops. Hawaii also recently lost two species of Nukupu'u honeycreepers, the O'ahu 'alauahio, and the Maui 'akepa. We have bid farewell in recent decades to Australia's masked owl, the Grand Cayman oriole, New Providence yellowthroat, Gonave Island chat-tanager, Santa Barbara song sparrow, and Florida's Dusky seaside sparrow. Gone forever.Ornithologists face a challenge to know if a species is technically extinct, since it is difficult to confirm that no breeding pairs exist. Some species, known to exist in remnants, appear "functionally extinct," including the Giant Ibis with less than 100 breeding pairs. Birds require specific habitats and diets, are vulnerable to domestic cats and other introduced predators, and serve as a fragile indicator for Earth's general ecological health.Global challenge A 2005 Stanford Study analysed all 9,787 known living bird species and 129 extinct species; tracked distribution, ecological function, and life history; and collated 600,000 computer entries.  From one of the most comprehensive biological databases ever compiled, the authors of the study estimated that 25% of bird species would be functionally extinct by 2100.Of highest risk, were species in the northern latitudes  and highly specialized species in bounded range with limited food, particularly island birds. In 2008, Worldwatch Institute and the IUCN Red List determined that 1,227 bird species (12 % of known birds) are now threatened with extinction. Among 192 species in critical crisis are the Giant Ibis, India's Forest Owlet, with less than a hundred individuals; the New Zealand Kakapo owl parrot, about 150 individuals; and the New Caledonia owlet-nightjar, that has not been sighted in over a decade.Richard Inger at the University of Exeter surveyed bird populations in 25 countries over 30 years, and estimated that total population in those nations had declined by 421 million birds between 1980 and 2009. A 2015 review of his study in Current Biology explains that the bird crisis in Europe is not just about extinctions but massive declines among the once-common species, such as sparrows, swifts, and Jackdaws. The most abundant quarter of the species lost 83 percent in 30 years. These massive declines, even if the species survive, effect the  functioning of the wider ecosystem.Birds provide essential, symbiotic services to the ecosystem, including decomposition, seed dispersal, and nutrient recycling. Birds contribute to human agriculture through pollination and pest control. Scavenger birds clean up dead animals, limiting the spread of disease. In the 1990s in India, the rapid loss of vultures led to an explosion of rabid dogs and rats, that feed on carrion. As a result, in 1997, rabies claimed more than 30,000 human deaths in India, more than half of the world's annual rabies deaths.The Passenger pigeon case provides a lesson in ecology. The Passenger pigeon once swarmed North America in flocks of over a billion birds, but were decimated by human hunters and became extinct by 1914. The pigeons had competed with deer mice for acorns, keeping the mice population in check. With the demise of the pigeons, deer mice populations swelled and became a primary vector of ticks, which carried the Lyme spirochete into the human community, contributing to the modern Lyme disea[...]

Authors around the world stand up for free speech and forests

Wed, 31 May 2017 13:44:00 +0200

Authors, journalists, poets and playwrights know that every time the right words are put to paper, or typed to a screen, our planet gets a little better. Because, without the right to express ourselves freely, we cannot make that positive change.More than 100 authors have pledged to defend free speech and those who peacefully protect the world’s forests. This pledge follows two multimillion dollar lawsuits filed by Resolute Forest Products, a Canadian company, to silence Greenpeace and’s exposure of its controversial logging in the boreal forest.Here’s what some of the authors have to say:Margaret AtwoodCanadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale, recently dramatised in the must-watch television show of the year. In the story, all but the most powerful women are forbidden to write and are denied access to books.“The endings of The Handmaid's Tale, 1984 and Brave New World are written. Ours is not. This is a chance to stand up for freedom of speech, the freedom to advocate for change, and the freedom to question authority, and to strengthen their protection under law. As a society, we need a positive outcome to this story.”Stephen FryBritish actor, comedian, author of the memoir More Fool Me, and all-round lover of words, has made a career of speaking up.“Speaking as a serial blasphemer, I take freedom of speech very seriously. It’s not just about the satisfaction you get from speaking your mind, it’s also about telling uncomfortable truths that need to be heard, and Greenpeace has been incredibly successful at exposing what the powers that be want to keep secret. But this case goes beyond Greenpeace to threaten every whistle-blower and watchdog with information that the rich and powerful want suppressed. I’m worried, and I think you should be too.”Yann MartelAuthor of Life of Pi which was adapted into an Oscar winning film. His work is praised for its imagination and originality, and captured hearts and minds everywhere with its magical-realism and deftly drawn characters."Ultimately we all benefit from free speech. If Resolute Forest Products manages to shut Greenpeace up with its heavy-handed legal tactics, we ALL lose. This is not just a question of preserving our environment but our civil society."Lev GrossmanBook critic and fantasy writer of The Magicians trilogy. He values words for their magic and power beyond all measure.“I support Greenpeace in their urgent, important work defending the environment, and I support the right of everyone, everywhere to speak out in protest without fear of being bullied and silenced." Michelle AlexanderAuthor of the New York Times bestseller, The New Jim Crow, which has shaped the conversation on how our prison system contributes to systemic racism and legalized discrimination.“The right to speak truth to power is the foundation of democracy and must be vigilantly protected and defended. Now more than ever.” Lauren GroffHer novel, Fates and Furies was Barack Obama’s favourite book of 2016."Greenpeace works hard to maintain a healthy balance in our planet's ecosystems, from seas to mountain tops, for the benefit of future generations." Anthony DoerrAuthor of All The Light We Cannot See, which won the Pulitzer prize. His writing wins praise from both readers and critics for its perfectly crafted language and page-turning plot.“We must never silence the voices who speak to protect our children’s future. The more we can remember how interconnected we all are—the more we can train ourselves to empathise with the kids in our neighbourhoods, beyond our borders, and in our futures—the better off we’ll be."Rebecca SolnitFollowing her book, Men Explain Things to Me, 'mansplaining' became a cultural concept. While she didn’t invent the word, she gives a voice to women everywhere with her sharp essays and culturally relevant writing.“There is no free society without free speech. When we say that, we mean free as in freedo[...]

After decades of lawlessness, could the seafood industry finally be ready for change?

Tue, 30 May 2017 04:30:00 +0200

Are we on the cusp of changing the destructive seafood industry forever?For years, the seafood industry has profited from forced labour, illegal fishing, ocean destruction and the needless slaughter of marine life. Tuna vessels operate out of sight and get away with just about anything on the high seas. Many times, the companies selling our families tuna have no idea where their fish came from or who caught it.Greenpeace activists peacefully confront marine operations at the heart of Thai Union’s supply chain in 2016. Activists in inflatable boats delivered a cease and desist letter to the deck of the Explorer II, a supply vessel using an underwater seamount to perch on and contribute to massive depletion of ocean life.Our campaign taking on Thai Union, the largest canned tuna company in the world, is about so much more than just tuna. It is about changing the entire seafood industry. We know that if we can shift the largest canned tuna company in the world, the rest of the industry will be forced to change as well. The status quo is no longer acceptable.After two years of activists and consumers demanding better from the company, Thai Union is talking to Greenpeace and looking into ways to clean up its operations. The company is considering changes that could significantly reduce the use of destructive fishing methods, help  minimise the risk of labour abuse in its supply chains, address illegal fishing and overfishing, and ensure the traceability of its seafood from ship to plate.These are monumental changes that will signal to the rest of the industry that it must do better or get left behind. The question is: is Thai Union and its brands ready to lead the industry in a new direction? src="" width="600" height="338"> That’s why, in our latest video, famous internet cats, mermaids, sharks, turtles, and humans alike are pushing Thai Union for action. We need everyone to speak up -- and push for the urgent reforms that are so desperately needed. There’s no longer time for baby steps or half measures. We need the sweeping changes that Thai Union is considering for our oceans and the workers at sea.Thai Union is massive -- owning brands like Chicken of the Sea (US), Mareblu (Italy), John West (North Europe and Middle East), Petit Navire (France) and Sealect (Thailand). The company also supplies retailers, pet food brands, and foodservice companies around the world, including retail giant Walmart. These changes will stretch far and wide, which is why it’s so important we win.We can’t let this opportunity pass us by. Join with Lil Bub, Hannah Mermaid, and activists around the globe in demanding a better seafood industry immediately.Graham Forbes is Global Seafood Markets Project Leader at Greenpeace USA[...]

To protect forests and free speech, lend your voice (literally!)

Wed, 24 May 2017 12:25:00 +0200

Can you imagine a world where Greenpeace and other advocacy groups are no longer able to stand up for our forests, oceans and climate? A giant logging corporation called Resolute Forest Products is fighting to make this sinister vision a reality.For years, Greenpeace has campaigned to protect the Great Northern Forest from unsustainable logging. Major companies, like Kimberly Clark—the makers of Kleenex—have worked with us to change their ways and now demand that their paper sources act responsibly.But Resolute has refused to work on real solutions. Instead, it's sunk its efforts into an all-out assault on Greenpeace; launching two major lawsuits against Greenpeace Canada, Greenpeace USA, Stand.Earth, and Greenpeace International so big they could sink us.We will not be silenced, even when faced with multi-million dollar lawsuits. That’s why Greenpeace supporters are speaking up—literally.All around the world, Greenpeace supporters are recording their own voices, saying “our voices are vital.” These recordings will be used to show Resolute that it has picked the wrong battle. The global Greenpeace community is bigger than it imagined. We’ll make sure Resolute gets the message: that the Greenpeace community is ready to get LOUD when it comes to protecting our right to speak out.Add your own voice today!We’ll use your voices in a short film that we will make sure Resolute sees and hears. Follow these instructions to send your message directly to Greenpeace International:Make sure you have WhatsApp downloaded on your phone.Add us as a contact: go to your address book, create a new contact for "Greenpeace" with this number +1 415 781 9471Go to WhatsApp and start a new conversation with "Greenpeace".Click on the microphone icon and hold it while you submit your simple voice message: “our voices are vital!”No matter who you are—a builder, a painter, a writer or an activist—your voice is vital to creating a better world. Now, corporate attacks on free speech are trying to take your voice away. Greenpeace supporters are bold and courageous. When someone tries to silence us, we only get LOUDER. Make some noise with us today. Great work! 500 of you left voice recordings, so artist Hannah Rosengren has created digital backgrounds for your phone and computer.Click on an image below to download:      Wow! With your help, we quickly reached the next goal of 1500 voices! Mark Deklin recorded a video for Greenpeace supporters. Enjoy!Read more about Designated Survivor actor Mark Deklin and check out his (non-violent) fight choreography video. src="" width="600" height="315">We said that if 2500 of you lent your voice, Emma Thompson would make a video. Over 4000 of you have now participated — thank you!Here’s what Emma has to say about free speech: src="" width="600" height="340">We've reached our next goal! 5000 of you recorded your voices, so director Tamra Davis has created a short film!In the video, Tamra reads from one of her favorite passages in literature. Read more about her short film, and enjoy! src="" width="600" height="315">Amazing! 6000 of you submitted recordings – so actress and producer Jennette McCurdy made this video for us.Check it out and share on social media! src="" width="600" height="340">  We've reached 10,000 recordings, so the band Yon Yonson has offered up a free song download for all Greenpeace supporters!You can download the song here. Jill Pape is[...]

Copenhagen Fashion Summit: How NOT to make the fashion industry more sustainable

Thu, 11 May 2017 16:49:00 +0200

This week, representatives from all the major brands - from fast fashion retailers like H&M, Asos and Zara, through to luxury labels like Burberry and Swarowski - are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss sustainability in the global fashion industry.The fashion industry is one of the most lucrative and destructive industries on earth. It generates €1.5 trillion every year and produces over a billion clothes every year. With global garment production set to increase by 63% by 2030, this model is reaching its physical limit.This year's Copenhagen Fashion Summit is focusing  on “circularity” – an industry buzzword that promises relief to the problem of limited resources within one of the world’s most resource intensive industries. In 2015, the fashion industry consumed nearly 80 billion cubic meters of fresh water, emitted over a million tonnes of CO2 and produced 92 million tonnes of waste. The Summit admits that the industry has a disastrous environmental impact and that we face “increasingly higher risk of destabilising the state of the planet, which would result in sudden and irreversible environmental changes”. Panelists at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, 10 May 2017. Credit: Copenhagen Fashion SummitWhile their focus on circularity sounds promising, it’s simply not enough.Industry leaders rarely talk about the real solution: reducing the overall volume of production. All their talk about sustainable investing and innovative new materials and technologies comes under the assumption that the industry continues to grow. But unlimited growth is impossible on a planet with finite resources.The industry wants to place the responsibility on consumers to educate themselves and recycle their own clothes, while continuing to heavily market cheap fast fashion at us.Real change is not going to happen without investing in designs and strategies to extend the life of clothing and reduce the environmental impact of production at the design stage. Fashion brands need to redefine their marketing strategies and start involving customers in a new narrative where people buy less and clothes are more durable and repairable. We need to slow down.Trash queen street performance in Taipei, November 2016It’s not enough to sell customers placebo solutions that ultimately leave shopping patterns untouched and guilt free. Even if we encourage people to recycle more, we have to remember that recycling is a resource intensive process relying on chemicals and vast amounts of energy, with many unsolved problems making it far from commercially viable.We already know that we own more clothes than we can wear. Shopping doesn’t make us happy in the long run. High volumes of fast fashion and rapidly changing trends aren’t catering to our real needs.If the Fashion industry really wants to be “an engine for a global and sustainable development”, it needs to think about how to shift the business model beyond the current paradigm of continuous economic growth. We hope that the fashion industry doesn’t wait until 2030 to realise that.Chiara Campione is a Senior Corporate Strategist for Detox My Fashion[...]

6 ways corporate lawsuits kill free speech (and how to fight back!)

Tue, 09 May 2017 19:42:00 +0200

Free speech is a right. So how can a corporation possibly stop you from speaking out? Using a legal tactic called a SLAPP, corporations like the massive Canadian logging company, Resolute Forest Products, are attempting to crack down on free speech by suing their critics into submission.Resolute has filed two lawsuits — one in Canada against Greenpeace Canada for CAD$7 million, and a CAD$300 million suit in the United States against Greenpeace Fund, Greenpeace Inc, Greenpeace International, and several individuals. Resolute is relying on the fact that this tactic is obscure and confusing, so arm yourself with all the information you need to protect your right to free speech.1. The clue is in the name SLAPPSLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” As the name implies, they’re used by corporations trying to shut down public participation. SLAPPs are often filed without any kind of merit, just to cause financial harm to individuals and organisations who have to hire lawyers and engage in costly legal battles to continue their work. 2. They are more than just a SLAPP on the wristMany SLAPPs are for amounts of money that are nearly impossible to pay, forcing activists to choose between massive legal costs or shutting up. Resolute is suing Greenpeace in two separate suits for CAD$300 million and CAD$7 million respectively. The whole purpose? Intimidation.3.  Corporations are getting SLAPP-happy You’re not the only one who thinks this should be illegal. A handful of countries around the world and 28 state legislatures in the United States have enacted anti-SLAPP laws to prevent frivolous lawsuits from being filed. The idea is that, if lawsuits intended to burden individuals and organisations are terminated early, their impact could be limited. But the laws remain imperfect and need to be strengthened and expanded to protect people everywhere. And even though anti-SLAPP legislation is popping up everywhere, SLAPPs continue to be on the rise. 4. That one where the residents of a small town in Alabama, US got sued for USD$30 million for standing up against a coal ash landfillThe ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) represented individuals in the city of Uniontown, Alabama — a poor, predominantly black town — who were sued by Green Group Holdings for USD$30 million for standing up to a coal ash landfill in their town. Due to public outcry and the support of the ACLU, they reached a settlement in February and agreed to better environmental protections — but they shouldn’t have had to deal with this corporate bullying in the first place.  There are hundreds of others across the US and beyond who won’t be so lucky.5. Sometimes it gets personal src="" width="600" height="350">In the Resolute v. Greenpeace lawsuits, Resolute chose to name individuals because by serving them with a massive lawsuit, in their home, the company can provoke a reaction. “It can be intimidating to be personally named in a fat lawsuit,” said Greenpeace USA Forest Campaign Director Rolf Skar. “You know you’ve got piles of legal papers and suddenly you wonder about, what does this mean for me? When do I have to show up in court? What does this mean for my future?” Companies like Resolute count on this intimidation to make individuals think twice about speaking up.6. Wait, what does the mafia have to do with this?If you’re following the Greenpeace case, you might have seen that Resolute is using RICO laws to inflate the amount of money in the U.S. lawsuit and claim triple damages. Does RICO sound familiar? You might know about RICO laws from when they were first created: in an effort to  prosecute the mafia more effectively. The filings in the U.S. call Greenpeace a “global fraud” and claim that “solicitin[...]

Shopping doesn’t make us happy

Mon, 08 May 2017 12:06:00 +0200

Do your clothes make you happy? Or, after the excitement of the shopping spree fades, does your new stuff tend to lose its in-store magic by the time it’s reached your wardrobe?  A new survey of international buying habits has found that we buy far more than we need and use. Two thirds of Hong Kong residents admit they own more than they need. The same is true for 60% of Chinese and over half of German and Italian respondents. But the mindless overconsumption of fashion has become our cultural norm.Shopping in Hong Kong, 23 Nov, 2015.Online shopping fuels this overconsumption. It’s easier than ever to buy new clothes by clicking through social media feeds whenever you see something you like. And it’s a time consuming habit: the average Chinese consumer spends at least two hours online shopping every day.The reasons for this are emotional and social. For many, comfort buys occur when people need to channel their anxieties. Shopping is a way to kill time, relieve stress, and avoid boredom. But the cheap thrill of buying something new dies away pretty fast. Half of the people surveyed said that the immediate excitement of a shopping spree lasted less than a day. After the binge comes the hangover.When they’re not shopping, around a third of the East Asian people surveyed admit feeling empty, bored or lost. What’s more, around half feel guilty about their shopping habits, sometimes hiding their purchases from others for fear of negative reactions or accusations of wasting money. Shopping does not make us happy. We already own too much and we know it.  So why do we shop? We are searching for excitement, looking to increase our self-worth, confidence and recognition. The American media activist and advertising critic, Jean Kilbourne, has commented about how deeply advertisers insinuate themselves by exploiting basic human desires like friendship, happiness and success in advertising for profit.The result is “Stuffocation,” a term coined by British cultural forecaster James Wallman. It describes a state where people’s lives are trapped in a vicious cycle of working and accumulating products in order to keep up with the pace of consumerism. This fuels the anxiety of modern life; destroying the planet while keeping us from leading more imaginative, fulfilling lives. Materialism is eating us inside out.    src="" width="560" height="315">So how do we stop it? Our survey showed that ads, promotions and 1-click buying functions are all designed to trigger impulse buying. The rate of buying increases the more companies speed up delivery. Therefore, the slower the buying process, the lower the desire to shop. To break free from the cycle of consumerism, we need to slow down.Next time you find yourself about to buy something new online, give yourself a few minutes to think. Sleep on it, and see if you still want it in the morning. When we switch off our phones and go outside instead of into shopping malls, we won’t buy so much.The joy of life is ultimately defined by our relationships to each other and the connection we feel to the natural environment. Instead of stuffocating ourselves, let’s enjoy the genuine happiness that stems from leading a fulfilled life. Frances Lo is a campaigner at Greenpeace Taiwan, working on overconsumption[...]