ONE of my readers made a disturbing comment on a blog I wrote which showed a distinctly defeatist view about taking a stand. It was in relation to the story about animal exports to Indonesia.
To paraphrase, he said: “If we don’t supply them someone else will. And then our farmers will be the only ones who get hurt.”
I replied that history is too often tragically shaped by silence. As philosopher Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” One person has to step forward and say: “No more!”
But the truth is, I too sometimes have doubts. Opening the mail last week I saw that almost every bill came with a brochure spruiking something. My insurance, phone, electricity and credit card bills all came with shiny rubbish and a corporate motto: Kill trees and stuff them into envelopes for no one to read.
I felt overwhelmed with the pointlessness. Why do we keep trying to uphold our own standards in relation to the environment – no plastic bags, recycling, turning off lights, having short showers – when at a corporate level there is such massive wastage and polluting?
Travelling around America last year, I was alarmed to discover that many cafes and restaurants don’t believe in washing cutlery or plates and give customers disposable plastic instead; even breakfast is served on party plates at medium-range hotels. Wine glasses are often disposable. Not to mention the epidemic of plastic drinking bottles. Back home and products are sealed in layers of plastic casing. Lights dominate the city skyline. Why?
Can any of us make a difference in this world of endless slaughter and pollution? The answer is “Yes!” After the Four Corners documentary on the horror of live animal exports, thousands of people put their names on petitions saying, “No more!” Now live cattle exports to Indonesia are suspended and the ban could even be widened.
Another success story is the decision by Coles to switch to hormone-free meat after listening to constant calls and complaints from consumers who wanted ethically treated, free-range animals. Coles will be phasing out buying meat from farmers who use them by 2014. “We acted on consumer demand. And profits are up 7 per cent as a result,” spokesman Jim Cooper told me.
I stopped donating to my favourite charity, Greenpeace, because they kept sending junk mail about why we should stop logging! And I let them know it. As Jim Cooper reminds us, companies are listening.
What are your big consumer complaints? Please share your frustrations and hopefully the government and corporations will hear us!
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