Earth Day Special: Equity and the Green Movement


Stephanie Chok / Perth, Australia

As millions around the world celebrate Earth Day, Stephanie Chok asks if the green movement could do with an Earth-shaking boost of revolutionary red.  

Should an ‘eco-mall’ be celebrated if it’s constructed by an army of underpaid workers? What if an ‘environment-friendly’ resort is built on land acquired by displacing local villagers? Are toxin-free ‘green’ products becoming exclusive ‘eco-labels’ only the wealthy can afford? As the Earth aches under our mindless abuse, it is critical to adopt green values. But in promoting eco-mindfulness, how are we dealing with the ever-challenging question of equity? Equity relates to fairness and should include notions of eco (‘green’) as well as social (‘red’) justice. For those that ask why it should matter, here is a counter-question: What are the likely consequences of not integrating green and red values?

Wanted: Hormone-free milk for my organic fair-trade coffee

One newspaper columnist in the UK termed it ‘supermarket apartheid’, a situation where well-heeled greenies in sweatshop-free apparel fill baskets with organic juice, biodynamic yoghurt, spray-free berries, hormone-free milk and phosphate-free detergent. In the meantime, sniffing around the bargain bins are working class families, who buy additive-laden, heavily-processed bulk foods with longer shelf lives – exotic fruit is a luxury, much less of the organic variety. Clothing the family means an outing to the nearest discount chain store, with the irony being that such garments are often stitched by individuals as undervalued as they are.  

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