so i’ve been thinking about simple shoes for a long time. the idea of recycled and sustainable materials really appeals to me, even if it is slightly pricy for my cheap tastes. however, i found this blog entry by the company admitting that they make their shoes in china, which got me back to the ‘environment vs. humane working conditions’ dilemma of consumerism… it’s hard for me not to buy cheap clothes, even when i know that they were made in deplorable sweatshops. i’d be willing to invest in something that was eco-friendly and/or union-made. unfortunately, it’s hard to find a combination of the two.

a comment provided insight to my dilemma:

Consumers as such are alienated beings, confined to their role as atomized purchasers of commodities. To try to determine labor and/or environmental standards by buying or not buying particular items is like trying to clean up a river by selecting only the non-polluted drops of water.

In a corrupted system, degraded labor and environmental content is spread throughout the entire system. Even if you find a pair of shoes that is sourced all the way back to recycled rubber tires, etc., the original tires were produced by a polluting industry and used to drive a polluting vehicle for tens of thousands of miles. And the various workers who molded those tires into shoes were probably wearing prison-produced Chinese garments from Wal-Mart.

You cannot change the world by making consumption choices.

I repeat:

You cannot change the world by making consumption choices.

All that you will succeed in doing is artificially assuaging some guilt by being more “pure” than anybody else.

Truly responsible products can only compete with products that exploit the environment and labor in a niche market, because the rape of the environment and labor result in cost savings that make the resulting products less expensive.

To change the world you need to organize to influence public policy (e.g., by foring the cancellation of NAFTA, CAFTA, APEC and other agreements that allow products to be freely imported from cheap labor and anti-environment havens), which generally means forcing government to act on behalf of the planet and its citizens. That requires a movement, not just careful consumption choices.

it’s a good point. trying to be socially responsible could be construed as assuaging my guilt. either way, i recognize the fact that it’s not a win-win situation.


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