Friday, April 27, 2007
Consumption with a conscience
Do you care about your world? Do you care about making it a better place? Many of you will probably answer yes. I'll even go further and say that many of you will say yes but the demanding needs of one's life take over. I'm in that camp as well. When I was living in Canada and the U.S. I drove my car practically everywhere. I rarely recycled. And, my day consisted of being consumed by my work, my family and my friends. Now living in London, I don't drive a car. Instead, I take public transport. If I'm being completely honest, it's not by choice. No parking! To make matters worse I travel A LOT. I shudder to think what kind of carbon footprint I'm leaving with the frequent flights I take. I still don't recycle. And my day still consists of being consumed by my work, my family and my friends. There's one difference though. Now I wonder what more I could be doing to change my world instead of simply existing in it. Environmentally and socially.

I probably won't stop traveling on planes any time soon because 1) my job requires me to do so and 2) how else does one become more aware of the world around us? I could start recycling (in fact, I should). I know that if I were to buy a car it would be a hybrid because they are fuel-efficient. For those of you who care about the luxury aesthetics of a vehicle, Lexus and BMW have some hybrid models you should check out. As for the changing the world -- the first step is actually being aware of life beyond your front door. Rahul Bose, a successful actor and activist in India, said passion is not about just being angry at all that's wrong with the world but it's about being angry and wanting to do something about it.

It all starts with one person. The people I meet on Art of Life constantly inspire me. Not only because of what they have been able to accomplish professionally but also how they are giving back to society. Changing their world the way they know how. Take Carlos Miele for example. I like to call him "The Fashion Designer With Heart." I met him on a recent trip to New York and I was so touched by how deeply he feels about his fellow Brazilians and how much he wanted to change their lives for the better. Miele grew up in a poor neighborhood in Sao Paolo and he saw how hard life was for those around him. He considers himself one of the lucky ones where his parents worked hard to give him a good education so he could get out of that cycle of poverty. The pride he has for his culture is reflected in the clothing he designs, which are recognized globally. The intricate detail on the fabrics and hand embroidery are Brazilian-inspired and indigenous by nature. But frustrated by the government -- and who he called "the elite" -- in Brazil for the lack of social services for the millions living in the favelas, or shantytowns, Miele took matters into his own hands and started hiring women in these areas to help create the beautiful designs that are now worn by celebrities worldwide. As a result these women are employed, they are making money for themselves and their families, and they are feeling a sense of self-worth.

Miele's success isn't only his. It's the people who work with him who help create his brand. He may not have conquered the world but he has changed the world for the few hundred women he has employed. It's people like Miele who make me feel that even I can do something. I may not know exactly what that something is right now but I'm hoping the more people like Miele I can meet the more inspired and closer to the answer I will be.

Watch the program: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

The Art of Life show on luxury spending airs on Saturday May 26 at 11:30 and 17:30; Sunday May 27 at 07:30, 13:30 and 18:30; and Monday May 28 at 13:30 and 17:30. ALL TIMES GMT.
Posted By Monita: Friday, April 27, 2007
The narrator says what he/she could/should do but clearly doesn't. The things he does do are not by choice. So what is this exactly?

I live in the suburbs of London, a place that, other than the commuting into London, public transport is a foreign word. I, however, CHOOSE to take public transport because I believe it's the right thing to do. That may be for global warming or, if you don't subscribe to that, pollution in general.

I wouldn't even think of not recycling. That is at least the bare minimum that a person can do.

I guess I just don't understand, then, what the purpose of this program could possibly be??
Posted By Anonymous J. Rutjes : 6:24 PM, April 27, 2007
one could also plant trees to offset carbon generated by the things we enjoy, like art.
Posted By Anonymous sean : 11:56 PM, April 27, 2007
One thing is to be aware of our social commitments towards planet earth and second is to do something about it. Every person (consumer in the program) can definitely contribute to the Global Warming Problem by simply assessing (what I would call as delivering) his daily set of tasks and the products / services he consumes. For e.g, try and wear a solar watch if possible, switching off the mains when not needed, running on correct tyre pressure etc etc, switching off ignition during long signal times, using Public transport as much as possible, thinking before printing, try and pay bills online etc etc .. and the list could go on and on ....
Posted By Blogger Rohit : 2:38 PM, April 28, 2007
Monita........I entirely agree with what you say.It's a huge dilemma that stalks many, many people who feel strongly about hunger, poverty and all that ails our world, but a) never do anything about it and b) don't know what to do about it apart from the usual charity/donation bit.I am happy that you have it in your mind and are looking to DO something.I wish you success and fulfilment in whatever you choose to do.And, finally you do write wonderfully well.I browsed through some of your other blogs and enjoyed it.
Posted By Anonymous Bhaskar : 8:10 AM, April 29, 2007
Hi Monita,
One cannot talk enough of environmental pollution. It's the most burning issue of the century. If we are to pass on a greener and cleaner world to the posterity, then more has to be done by educating the people through such programs like yours. As the saying goes,'Seeing is believing,' I request you to cover more on this topic to help create an awareness in the people.
I truly enjoyed this month's show in every sense of the word.
Posted By Anonymous SriVidya, Toronto, Canada : 8:08 PM, April 30, 2007
Hi Monita,
This month's programe was very topical. Keep such topics coming on your program. Good presentation by a wonderful anchor. Keep up the good job.
Posted By Anonymous Gopi, Toronto, Canada : 7:35 PM, May 05, 2007
Hi Monita,

I was so attracted by the topic of your discussion ‘consumption without conscience’. It is very unbecoming of most of us to be unconcerned or rather complacent about issues that require utmost consideration and practical solution. I admit that much has to be done to save this our mother earth, otherwise we’ve got no where else to live. Not many of us can afford to live in the moon or whatever planet the least of life can be supported, if we by and for whatever reason and unduly destroy the free earth which God Almighty gave to us mankind, I suppose we’d better dead by yesterday than to witness the coming doom. Much is said of Terrorism, Hunger, Disease, War, etc but who ever cares the earth? The safety of this world is not dependent on war against terrorism or disease but I seem to see that the issue of pollution will be far disastrous than all the harms we’re experiencing today. It is so nice of you to think of this issue. Can you please bring this matter to the CNN and BCC? Instead of spending too much resource on terrorism, could a tenth of these resources be given over to conserving our natural environment? I do not see the WHO or UNO being practical about the environment! I’m afraid it may take another decade or two unless our leaders awake from their slumber. Thank you and best of regards. Monita.

Wis Bassey
Yishun, Singapore
Posted By Anonymous WIS BASSEY : 6:09 AM, July 11, 2007
hello monita,

you think right to do it with this recycling at all, could be better!

but driving the car shouldn´t give everyone a nice giving away for the moving in their vehicles..
suddenly it is here suddenly not, i mean?

but talk about anyelse then cars are really not interesting in this time, maybe, i think. but in short Lexus is all right!

but tis is interessting to me follow to Rahul Bose to giving this advice is great.

At all the rest is best!
Your Show bring the most importanàt
Corrilation to us, me too.

Posted By Anonymous Markus S.K. Polatschek : 11:49 AM, September 30, 2007
Although this problem is not specifically about the environment, I believe it ties in well with your "Comsumption with a Conscience".

In August of this year alone almost one million Chinese-made toys were recalled for high levels of lead. Recent findings have also exposed dangerous chemicals like the date-rape drug in certain toys. As Americans are preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year, many parents are questioning what gifts are safe to put under their tree. Overall, American society seems extremely concerned about the dangers of these products to our communities. But how do we protect ourselves? Who is responsible for protecting us?
One concern that has not been exposed to our society through any kind of main-stream media is how these toys are being developed, and what kinds of factories are making them. Of course, we can assume that countries like China have poor regulation when it comes to the materials or chemicals going into their products, but most Americans have not stopped to think about what kinds of working conditions the toys are coming from or the labor laws that are harming the people working in these factories. Clearly the Chinese government has some work to do in improving regulations, but the American people must stop blaming the countries that make our products and start using our buying power to change the American government’s import laws.
A perfect example of how we cannot trust over-sea’s governments is a report done by the China Labor Watch on a Disney contractor. “Workers at the spraying department complain among themselves that the fume is too strong, and that they are never explained the safety hazards with paint.” It is no wonder that our toys are being made with harmful chemicals then, when those who build the toys are never even told what is actually going into them. Since the Chinese government is not regulating the working conditions of these factories and the chemicals going into our products, it is up to the American government to enforce our products are being made with the highest of standards. However, at this point in time this is not happening.
A main reason we cannot rely on the governments and contractors outside of our own is that the American companies are often lied to. The American corporations say they hold our over-seas contractors to the highest of standards. For example, Mattel, one of the largest toy companies based in America and labeled as one of the best 100 Corporate Citizens in 2007 states the following about their product safety standards: “We are continuously enhancing our safety requirement standards, which are based on a combination of U.S. law, international law, U.S. voluntary requirements and international voluntary requirements.” However, the contractors that companies like Mattel use over seas realize they will lose work if they do not pass inspections run by the US companies, but they are not willing to give up the dominant ideals of their society. The workers (often children) are forced to lie to the inspectors. One way the factories lie is by running two separate reports each month. One report shows the actual data (lower wages, longer hours) and one report shows false information and is given to the auditors (higher wages, shorter hours). The workers are also taught how to answer questions they may get from auditors, their “accuracy” being a contingency of their employment.
Since we can no longer expect that our products are being made safely or ethically, we need to start holding our government responsible for what is imported into this country. No person should have to worry that their clothing was made by children, that the toys they have in their household are made with lead, or that the people making our products are dying from their working conditions. Some Americans have chosen to boycott particular brands or companies because there is so much evidence of child labor and unfair labor practices by our contractors over-seas. However, as little as these workers are paid, they still rely on that income to survive. One positive option that our government needs to start enforcing is making sure our products are all fair-trade certified. Fair-trade companies agree to pay living wages and protect their employees from harmful working conditions. Many people do not know of this option when buying goods, but it is a growing option for consumers. For example, companies like Starbucks and Bruegger’s Bagels have fair-trade coffee blends available upon request. The Fair Trade Federation states “In 2000, in the U.S. and Canada, 600 outlets wholesaled Fair Trade products, while at least 2575 offered retail. In 2001, at least 7000 provided retail, a massive increase of 271%.”
What needs to be done now is for Americans to use their buying power to demand our government only import free-trade products. America needs to demand that companies get their contractors fair-trade certified in order to do business in this country. The easiest way to do this is to buy only fair-trade products this holiday season, and to put more pressure on our legislators. Obviously, we can no longer rely on other governments or contractors to make ethical products. By doing this we protect the workers who produce the goods for America and we also ensure that the conditions the products are made in are not harmful to anyone. By doing this we automatically improve the quality of our products because higher standards are being practiced in the factories. We can rest assured that children, for example, are not being forced into sewing our new Christmas sweater, and that the adult workers are being paid a living wage. They can then support their own families and we can provide safe products to ours. If the American government can protect the workers in other countries by demanding all imports be fair-trade, we ultimately protect ourselves.
Posted By Blogger Laura : 1:11 AM, November 19, 2007
The content very well justifies an apt title - 'consumption without conscience’.

This is a very contemporary problem the world is facing - we need to wake up and act rapidly following our good conscience.

Nice article on a pressing issue.
Posted By Blogger Arun Maythil : 3:22 PM, January 11, 2008
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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