Environmental Issues Discussion: Consumerism

On April 19th, the Environmental Issues Committee welcomed women to the Centre to discuss and explore the topic of Consumerism. Larissa Stendie, a political ecologist and research manager at the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute joined us with her passion and a decade of knowledge to help us understand the impacts of consumerism on women, and show us ways we can strive for positive change. She led our evening with a provocative and informative talk that empowered the room with energy, dialogue, and a desire to make a difference.

We began the evening with a presentation from the Committee on the fashion and textile industry and its environmental impact. We chose this topic because it represents an interesting overlap between gender and the environment. Not only is the fashion industry the second top polluting industry in the world, but from both a human rights and marketing perspective, it is a significantly gendered industry. Women make up 80% of people employed by the fashion industry, and they are the industry’s main target audience. The presentation focused on understanding the life cycle of a garment (from finding the  materials make the clothes to when a person no longer wants them), as well as ways we can become conscious of what we are actually buying and wearing.

We then transitioned into Larissa’s powerful presentation that focused on questioning and challenging our place within a capitalistic and consumerist based system. She argued that by understanding the embedded flaws and blind spots of our system, we can shift away from only considering our own needs when making purchasing decisions and begin to consider the environment. This approach allows us to collectively rebuild our world into one that is environmental, empathetic, and inclusive. Larissa brought up challenging questions such as: what makes a good life; and does this definition reflect what the popular economic narrative defines as a “good life”? Why are we measuring “wealth” by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) instead of GNH (Gross National Happiness)? She also introduced us to the work of Kate Rawoth, an economist who is dramatically re-defining the way we think about what makes an economy healthy. Overall, Larissa’s presentation demonstrated the importance of challenging our human centered approach, and empowering ourselves and our community to take action.

We thank Larissa Stendie for facilitating such an engaging talk, and sharing her energy and warmth.

This post was written by, Rachel Shabalin, a member of the Environmental Issues Committee.

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