GOOD: COP26 and the story of capitalism

Jennifer Good, Associate Professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film at Brock University, had a piece recently published in The Hamilton Spectator about the ways in which stories that discuss the earth and humans’ consumption of its resources can guide sustainable policies.

She writes:

“Humans are storytellers. From fireside talks to television to TikTok, stories have always shaped how we understand the world and ourselves. Stories offer us connections to the past and glimpses of future potential.

In our collective storytelling history, there are few stories that have had the tenacity of capitalism’s consumption story. And if there is one reality that COP26 showed with blinding clarity, it is that in spite of the climate-change-fighting rhetoric, our global leaders are no match for the same old story.

Our consumption story was born a couple of hundred years ago when the Industrial Revolution gave birth to mass production; products spilled off the assembly lines and stories framing the earth as a collection of “natural resources” similarly began to flow. Stories — advertising and marketing — also began teaching us to be consumers. These new stories coexisted with an often brutal process of trying to destroy Indigenous people, their stories and rituals celebrating the earth as interconnected, spiritual and alive. If the Earth was going to be reframed as a collection of raw materials awaiting production and consumption, other ways of knowing would have to end.

These new stories also had to teach us why it was so vitally important to not just consume for our food, shelter and living healthfully but that we had to consume ever-greater quantities of stuff even when we had enough. Indeed, the stories taught us that there could never be enough. Consumption of lots and lots of stuff, the stories told us, would bring us greater and greater happiness. Consumption was how to show love. Consumption was how to create jobs.”

Continue reading the full article here.

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