In of individuals has society believing that

In “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save The World?”, Michael Maniates begins by claiming that the story of The Lorax by Dr Suess echoes the largely North American response to the current environmental crisis. One that views individual shortcomings responsible for the degradation of our environment all the while believing it will only be solved through individual and consumer based action. Maniates calls this response “the individualization of responsibility” and claims that this mindset simply does not contribute to a sustainable future. People instead need to start working together, as consumers and citizens, to call for changes in policy and institutions. He explains that the modern ideology of trying to put overconsumption problems into the hands of individuals has society believing that they can fix all the environmental problems through recycling, planting trees, and buying “green” products alone.

However, this is obviously not the case. Maniates claims that this is just a form of consumerism that takes the responsibilities off the shoulders of governments and companies who should be taking initiative to introduce and enforce environmental policies. He goes on to criticize IPAT (impact = population * affluence * technology) mentioning it tends to disempower citizen actors while also ignoring economic and political power. He instead proposes IWAC (impact = quality of work * meaningful consumption alternatives * political creativity) to try and discourage individualization of responsibility. Maniates concludes his argument by stating that people need to start looking at themselves as citizens first and consumers second.

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Individual consumer choices prove to be ineffective, but when people join together, action can be taken against commercial and political powers.


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