Protecting the Environment the Natural Way

Carrier, J. (2010). Protecting the Environment the Natural Way: Ethical Consumption and Commodity Fetishism. Antipode, 42(3), 672-689.

In this piece the author, James Carrier, argues that one of the ways people can contribute to protecting the environment is to only purchase products meet certain “environmental criteria.” This is the concept of “ethical consumption.” Carrier argues that people can do two things: generally lead a moral life and make changes on a larger scale based on the products they purchase and trying to influence firms that sell them to change their ways. “…ethical consumption marks a conjunction of capitalism and conservation” (Carrier 2010, 896). The idea is that the production of certain products causes the degradation of the environment and so if we stop purchasing these products then we can influence the way the environment is managed on a global scale. For example, going back to the article about the Great Apes; if we stopped paying to go to zoos and circuses and other businesses that contribute to the funding of this illegal activity then it is likely that the capturing and selling of these animals, and the destroying of their environment, will slowly stop. Carrier describes “fair trade products” as something that appeals to the ethical consumer. They usually have a picture of someone who is supposed to be a local, creating the product, looking happy and healthy. Carrier says that these are usually not realistic and “fetishizes” the product. Fetishism is the “….abstraction of things from their practical contexts that is both widespread in modern capitalist societies and seen as natural and valuable (Carrier 2001). There are things we can do to improve the management of the environment globally if we look at it from a moral and ethical standpoint.