Imagine your commute to work or school today. Picture those ads you saw everywhere: on the subway, plastered on construction walls, practically anywhere you are in New York City you can see an advertisement for something.
Have you ever purchased something because of an ad? Do those ads generally catch your attention?
Well here is our final project: the anti-advertisement advertisement. Instead of perpetuating our constant value of consumption and consumerism, these ads aren’t trying to sell you anything; rather, they’re trying to remind you and educate you of the potential dangers of such material based industries such as the fashion industry.
Highlighting injustices from the industry, from environmental destruction such as air pollution to animal rights to water contamination, these anti-consumerist fashion advertisements serve to educate the public consumer and urge them to rethink the products they buy.
My brother Joey and I are working together for the midterm. Our focus is on sustainable fashion, so our project will be an unconventional look at advertising. We will be creating 4-7 false advertisements of companies that are failing to practice sustainable manufacturing. This means that the companies are not regulating their effects on the environment or on the people making the clothing. We will be keeping the same aesthetics, branding, and logo design of each advertisement, but changing the name to reflect these unsustainable companies.
A lot of our inspiration came from the documentary The True Cost, which details multiple facets of the global fashion industry, from cotton farming and Monsanto’s seeds to outsourced production to consumerism. We were also inspired by CR Fashion Book‘s pseudo-advertisement “fantasy” campaign, and played with extending fake advertisements to make more of a political statement about the current state of the destructive fashion industry.
This week, Joey and I began taking pictures for our satirical advertisements. We chose the companies that we want to base our advertisements on and changed the names to signify aspects in which the companies are unsustainable and harm the earth.
We have created a calendar for when we will take each photo and travel to the different locations. We are also using the Gallatin computer lab to access Photoshop, experiment with lighting, saturation, and hue, and design the ads.
The first photo was taken in the East Village. We waited for perfect cloudy weather, scoured around for the perfect setting, set up the camera, got in costume, and took plenty of photos and poses. While we got many weird looks on the street, we figured we’re in New York— everybody does weird things.
We don’t want to give too much away, but here’s a sneak peek of some of the unedited shots we got.
Next week we plan on visiting the Bronx Botanical Gardens.
“The blood run out of their noses and out their mouths…. They’re trying to cover this stuff up. But it’s not going to be covered up, because I’m going to bring it out in the open for people to see” (Shutmatt 3). Sounding like a biblical scene or one from a sci-fi horror movie, Wilbur Tennant’s farm was a strong and real case of the impact of fluoropolymers and the unregulated chemical industry.
“The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Brian Shutmatt has so many levels of shock and horror. I find the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to be particularly disturbing. “Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the E.P.A. can test chemicals only when it has been provided evidence of harm. This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, is the reason that the E.P.A. has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years” (12).
With globalization’s neoliberal policies of free trade, privatization, and deregulation, companies, including DuPont, 3M, and so many more giant powers are able to reap the benefits of these policies solely to make more profit. They use their agency to overrule small court cases. Even large cases, such as the fine DuPont had to pay for its concealment of knowledge of PFOA’s toxicity and presence in the environment, only cost pennies compared to their profit.
“The fine represented less than 2 percent of the profits earned by DuPont on PFOA that year” (12). With the seemingly innumerable profits corporations have, one wonders why that money is not used to create a better world.
Such megacorporations reap the benefits of unaware Americans as well. “Corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated’ (12). But, unfortunately, as this article explains, the E.P.A. and other local and federal government environmental agencies have and use little control over mega-corporations.
Whether the government does not provide enough funding for environmental agencies or whether economic policies simply promote privatization and deregulation, policy must be adjusted for the environment to be salvaged.
Millennials and Generation Z hold true voices when it comes to the future we will live in. We must use our capacity to share ideals of sustainable practices, transparency, and regulation to make this world a safer and healthier place for us and for all mankind.
Like Rob Bilott, we must fight for “the right thing,” even if it takes decades. Bilott’s devotion to uncovering the truth and making substantial change serves as inspiration to us all to find something we are passionate about and take the time and resources to fully develop an argument and change the way citizens look at the world.
Like Rob Bilott, EarthJustice works to represent class actions and citizens affected by the local impact corporations have on the environment and health. EarthJustice is a resource citizens can use to get legal protection and aid in uncovering truths corporations try to hide and in enacting policies and laws to fix the issues.
“How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” by Emily J. Gertz similarly reiterates the way the government currently works in relation to energy corporations.
Quoting Walter Merschat, a Casper-based geologist, Gertz writes, “‘The underlying reason is that they [Wyoming environmental officials who failed to take the boom’s impacts on groundwater seriously] were tied to the state,’ he said, ‘and the state is tied to the economy, and the economy is tied to oil, coal, and gas wealth, and they were told, “Don’t rock the boat”’” (Gertz 7).
As I grasped from both articles, often times local communities are tied to corporations so much so that the government, economy, and everything else related to the town’s functioning relies on corporations.
In Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and so many more places, corporations can control the people, the government, the education, and the laws of the community. This power and control must be challenged so that innocent Americans, such as L.J. and Karen Turner, can continue living the American dream of opportunity.
Without a healthy environment, life cannot sustain itself. Soon enough, our natural resources will be consumed, and only then, it seems, when the damage has been done will the government make corporations liable and responsible.
I also chose to read “GM Seed Firm Monsanto Dismisses ‘Moral Trial’ as a Staged Stunt” by John Vidal. With my interest in sustainable fashion, Monsanto’s cotton seed developments and patents have been of much controversy within the industry. With illness, cancer, deformities, and all sorts of health and environmental issues being blamed on these “unnatural” seeds and products to grow them, this article is very relevant in my studies.
The True Cost, a recent documentary on sustainable fashion, focuses partly on the controversy of GMOs and organic cotton and Monsanto’s impact in Texas and India. Without explicitly blaming Monsanto, the documentary pairs images of deformed children and adults dying of cancer with Monsanto commercials and footage of farmers spraying Monsanto pesticides on the patented seeds.
It is unlikely, I suspect, that Monsanto’s chemicals and seeds don’t impact humans and the environment. Like DuPont, tobacco companies, and so many more industries, I suspect that Monsanto has similar studies and data that they have neglected to share with the public that prove the detrimental consequences of its products.
I find this topic hard to research because of the many biases that exist, and this article certainly documents Monsanto’s opinion on the “Moral Trial.”
“‘It is a staged event, a mock trial where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organisers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined,’ wrote Martha Burmaster, Monsanto’s director of human rights” (Vidal 2).
And while this may be true, I still subliminally find it to be false. Whenever I read a Monsanto statement, my mind automatically reads it in an uncanny tone, giving me goosebumps and questioning its validity. I expect that the language used is meant to calm readers and trick them into thinking the statements are true and accurate, when in fact they may not be.
In the coming weeks and months, I hope that this “Moral Trial” being held in The Hague will provide a forum for possible victims of Monsanto to safely express their experiences. Additionally, I hope it will help develop international law, bring more international attention and coverage to the controversies, and serve as a basis for the fight forward.
Last summer, a mysterious plant popped up in several spots in my garden. It had a tough, fibrous stem, and any effort to de-root the plant was met with difficulty. Cutting the plant at the stem didn’t work, and it would just regrow in a few days. Eventually, digging deep into the ground exposed a rhizome that snaked through the yard, and by posting a picture of the plant on an online forum, I learned that it was Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant that was originally planted as an ornamental.
While I was pleased to get a diagnosis, I was shocked to see the accompanying advice. Knotweed is nearly impossible to kill due to the rhizomes, and there was a unanimous push to eliminate the weed with glyphosate before it spread any further. I was assured that I could easily pick some up at the hardware store, and sure enough, a small bottle was available for a mere five dollars under the name of Roundup. At this point, I was already vaguely following the growing skepticism towards Monsanto and GMOs, and I was hesitant to use an herbicide (especially Roundup) in my yard, but after contacting my local county extension office, I was given instructions to carefully apply the herbicide only to a cut stem with a small paintbrush. Sure enough, the knotweed disappeared and has not shown sign of returning.
I bring up this anecdote because I want to bring attention to how easy it was to not only suggest someone to buy Roundup, but also to purchase Roundup. It is accessible, cheap, and marketed as an easy fix, and I am troubled how a product that can so negatively impact the environment has integrated itself into our consumerist landscape without anyone batting an eye.
As I mentioned in class last week, my term project is aimed at increasing awareness of local environmental issues as a means to bring attention to larger and more abstract ones that affect our whole planet. In my experience, for those living in urban locations like myself, environmental issues are easily obscured by the bustle of everyday life, and pesticide overuse and toxicity is no exception. Inspired by my personal experience with Japanese Knotweed, the Reuter’s article on glyphosate, and Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream, I decided to further investigate the current debate on herbicide/pesticide use and to find out more information on who exactly is “living downstream” from Monsanto.
While I couldn’t find anything about where Monsanto is specifically manufacturing or testing their products, I did find an answer to the broader question of who exactly is being affected by the careless application of potentially carcinogenic substances. The answer? All of us.
Glyphosate and general pesticide/herbicide use has increased so dramatically and quietly over the past few years, and I think this represents a shifting baseline in that it is now more rare to find organic agriculture than food that has had contact with these substances at some point (whether through direct spraying or through animal feed). This is shocking when considering the fact that less a century ago (before industrial agriculture became the norm), all agriculture was considered organic. We have accepted these chemicals into our food system without giving the issue much thought, and recent protests against GMOs is only coming after the fact. On the USGS website, I was able to find maps that illustrate annual pesticide use for specific chemicals, and I put together this gif to illustrate the change over time.
Equally concerning is the disconnect the general public has with an issue that impacts us so directly. After watching Merchants of Doubt and seeing how hard certain corporations work to create a misinformed public, I was not surprised to find plenty of people on both the pro- and anti-GMO sides of the debate that do not know the scientific reasoning behind their arguments. Websites that promote alternative lifestyles, such as mercola.com, publish sensationalized and skewed articles that use fear-mongering techniques rather than true education at the same time that Roundup’s website does not contain any sort of health warnings. What’s troubling to me that these two sources of information are way more accessible than peer-reviewed scientific literature or governmental information, especially when the EPA page for glyphosate looks like this.
As artists, I believe that we are socially responsible in part for communicating information in a way that is easily accepted universally, and part of that responsibility lies in communicating information that is accurate. After hearing everyone’s project proposals in class last week, I’m excited to see how the work that we create will develop over the semester, and hope that what we are starting in this class is only the first step in a larger agenda to use our talents in a way that is productive and beneficial to society and the planet.
As our world and economy develop, we’re finding new ways to go about our daily lives in an effort to make our existence as easy and comfortable as possible. We’ve designed cars with cushy interiors that take away from gas efficiency, travel-sized and disposable soaps, snacks, and household items, and developed toxic chemicals that can kill weeds or clean our shower drains while wreaking havoc on the environment.
The desire and “need” for convenient and comfortable lifestyles have led to the development of companies like Monsanto whose development of GMO crops have resulted in a more efficient and predictable crop, but have also damaged green spaces and water supplies around the globe. We have started challenging nature’s decisions and have begun to manipulate the land in order to make our own lives more comfortable.
The price of comfort is paid in a number of ways. The millions of plastic bottles and containers generated per year is staggering, and with the mentality that “someone else” will recycle or drive a more fuel efficient car leads to a massive attitude of disregard towards the environment. In this estimate from 2007, 17 million barrels of oil were required to produce plastic for water bottles in the United States — enough oil to power 1 million cars. The potability of the majority of American water makes me question why there is such high demand for bottled water. Has this become a luxury item ? Or are people fearful of what is in their tap water ?
If people are in fact fearful of what their water contains, there must be a reason behind it. As shown in Gasland, people across the country being exposed to toxic fracking chemicals which are leaking into their groundwater supply. Monsanto’s production of glyphosate has resulted in pollution of groundwater sources. In order to curb our environmental imposition, the need for convenience has to be reduced. There are small steps that people can take everyday that can make an impact like not buying plastic bottles and working to ban the use of Monsanto’s poisonous herbicide. It might take some adjusting to, but in the end, it will lead to a healthier planet.
Apologies – posted prematurely.
“…. this is an irreversible technology. It is no good 50 years later to say: ‘We should have known.'” — Arpád Puszati
“Árpád Pusztai (8 September 1930) is a Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist who spent 36 years at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a world expert on plant lectins, authoring 270 papers and three books on the subject.
In 1998, Árpád Pusztai publicly announced that the results of his research showed feeding genetically modified potatoes to rats had negative effects on their stomach lining and immune system. This led to scientific criticism. Pusztai was suspended and his annual contract was not renewed. The resulting controversy became known as the Pusztai affair.” — Wikipedia
• NIH reference • Scientists Call for Moratorium • Decision to Publish