If the Planet were a Brownie and We’re the Bakers, Where is our Chocolate Coming From?

Hello, readers and classmates!

                Since the semester started, we have discussed everything from global collapse to globalization to recently – the big industries that cause many of the environmental problems from the last few weeks! In these last two weeks, we have discussed fashion and poverty’s impact on the degradation of (or opportunities for?) the environment.

                Starting with the topic of fashion, two weeks ago we were given an article about the fashion industry and the hidden opportunities it presents. We are all familiar with “fast fashion” and its detrimental effect on the environment through incredible waste. But Walker, the author of this particular article, tries spinning it a new way: because fashion is constantly evolving, perhaps it can evolve to slowly make people more aware of sustainability issues. This was the basis for Walker’s argument that fashion can make the world a better place over time. Perhaps there is some merit to this argument; it is, after all, becoming more and more popular to support ethical brands like Patagonia, or even small businesses from developing countries. One of the most interesting arguments brought up during class discussion was that if companies make long-lasting clothes, they will take even longer to decompose when they are inevitably in a landfill. While this is true, what I would have loved to contribute and discuss even more was how this thinking only contributes more to the toxic cycle of producing cheap and fast products that must be forcibly replaced by consumers. Embracing fast fashion, no matter in what way, embraces the means that got us where we are today, which is ultimately problematic. Though this is something that I brought to my group during discussion, it felt a little lost on everyone I talked with. Even if consumers are eventually swayed toward more sustainable fashion and it takes a couple decades, do the ends really justify the means?

                Our more recently topic of poverty brought localized environmental issues to the forefront as we debated “does poverty contribute to environmental degradation?” My article argued that, yes, it does, and this week I agreed. People in poverty are forced into “ecological activities,” such as fishing, mining, deforesting, or any other activities that harm the environment. These activities are a necessary evil for economic well-being and development. So, when asked in small group discussion whether corporations should help contribute to people in poverty in order to minimize environmental degradation, the answer was clear for most: obviously, helping the poor is a great thing to do either way. However, something that I brought to my group was the caveat that helping the poor isn’t the only thing that big industries should be doing to reduce environmental damage; they should also be eliminating single-use packaging, improve their processing, and treat their employees more ethically. This is how real environmental change will occur – not by helping the poor help the environment, but by making strides to be more conscious themselves.

                In my mindfulness practice over the last two weeks, I have tried to think more this way as well. As stated in my last blog, I have been practicing mindfulness in action rather than meditatively – through trying to be more conscious of what I’m buying and contributing to environmental degradation. Over the last two weeks, I’ve tried to maintain focus on staying mindful at stores, throughout the day as I consume products or information, and when I’m just thinking in my own down time. Practicing mindfulness in action has been incredibly beneficial for me as a human to feel more connected to my own footprints on the planet, and it is something I’ll continue to practice long after this course is over.

                I’ll finish this blog series with another all-important dessert analogy for all my sweet-toothed fans, and this one seems like the most important thus far. If our planet were a brownie, and the chocolate was the manufacturers, we bakers would need to make sure we got the best chocolate possible to make those brownies turn out amazing. With bad, overprocessed, or toxic (in this analogy) chocolate, there’s no way to produce good brownies. Manufacturers that contribute to environmental degradation are a massive part of the issue of how our planet is turning out. It’s our responsibility, as bakers (consumers), to demand and support better manufacturing practices so our brownies (environments) are the best they can be.

                Thanks for reading, bakers, and remember – you chose your ingredients. Catch you next time in our final blog post!  

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