Black Friday has come and gone. And by all accounts it was an economic success. Record breaking amounts of money were spent by American consumers stocking up on gifts for the holiday gift-giving season and, no doubt, spending a bit on themselves as well. And, from one important perspective, that's a good thing. More spending means more producing, and more producing means more jobs. And heaven knows, we need more jobs!
But in the interest of creating jobs, there are some who are suggesting that we set aside various environmental goals and standards. This, though, is exceptionally short-sighted. It is the sort of attitude that got us into the environemental mess we are experiencing in the first place! Why is it that some folks are so quick to pit the creation of jobs against the environment, why not seek to create jobs that will help repair and sustain the environment? Our economic interests and our environemental interests can--and should--be in sync.
I have not researched Patagonia, the apparel manufacturer and retailer, but it appears they are trying to do just that. I was impressed by a full page add that ran in the New York Times on Black Friday. It featured a picture of a Patagonia jacket, headlined, "Don't Buy This Jacket." The ad copy opened with a rather startling statement: "It's Black Friday, the day in the year retail turns from red to black and starts to make real money. But Black Friday and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We're now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet." The ad then went on to encourage consumers to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle. It included a promise by Patagonia to take back any of their clothing that is worn out and then to recycle it. "Don't buy what you don't need," the copy continues later, "Think twice before buying anything."
One thing the ad doesn't say, but that I will: we can't buy a new planet. Limiting our consumption to the resources of just one planet will take a concerted effort, and it will need to include all the players, governments, non-profits, corporations, individuals, labor and religious groups.