Something brought a Scientific American article entitled “Rethinking Green Consumerism” bubbling to the surface (it’s actually a 2002 article), and I chanced to stumble across it.

It’s an interesting article, in a generic and superficial feel-good way.

The sub-headline boldy declares

“Buying green products won’t be enough to save biodiversity in the tropics. A new plan for marketing conservation services may be the answer.”

The article is based, in part, on the fact that public lands in the developing world are currently being leased out for incredibly, incredibly rock-bottom rates. The idea being, conservation groups can lease biological hotspots (outbidding, e.g., lumber concerns), thus saving the land, recompensing whatever indigenous peoples might happen to occupy the land, and basically making everybody happy.

Curiously, the authors contrast this approach against current trends to produce “green products” (products produced in a sustainable manner) as a way of pursuing conservation goals.

Which is well and good—and to be fair, you can’t really expect a 6-page Scientific American article to comprehensively put forth an idea for fixing all that’s wrong—but nowhere is the word growth mentioned; ‘consumption’ is mentioned, but not in the context of human resource consumption being a severe limiting factor on any chances of survival.

Nowhere do the authors give so much as a head-nod to the necessity of curtailing consumer consumption. Oh well. Presumably, as long as conservation groups have leases on critical habitat, we can go about our normal patterns of consumption.

Thank goodness! For a minute, I was worried.

(In all seriousness, it’s a competent article, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the authors in fact believe consumption is a factor that must be addressed in addition to their own ‘solution’. Nor would I be surprised to find out that the authors are technologists, utterly convinced that we can continue consuming products as long as technological solutions are found to magically increase efficiency. This uncertainty is the problem—we can’t know, from the article, what the authors believe w/r/t consumption. Consumption is the invisible elephant that most people ignore and everyone else assumes that ‘most people’ know it’s a problem. Until it’s out in the open, we can’t very well come up with a feasible solution to ecological dilemmas.)

(via SciAmerican: “Rethinking Green Consumerism” (PDF) by Jared Hardner and Richard Rice [May 2002])