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World-washing
Alex Steffen, 13 Oct 04

In the 90s, large and reckless corporations learned that they didn't always have to actually clean up their acts, that it was often enough to simply claim to be green. This "greenwashing" has become less effective with use, and with the rise of the Net, and with stronger communications strategies on the part of enviros.

In the last five years, of course, the debate has shifted to a new arena: debating the merits and perils of globalization and globalism. In this new arena, the aim is for those with questionable agendas to claim to be on the side of the world's poor. Call it world-washing.

There's no better example of the practice than A World Connected (a project of the corporate-libertarian "Institute for Humane Studies"), which has about the same relationship to real journalism on sustainable development as Joe Camel does to your family doctor.

Here's a short-list of the things A World Connected tries to world-wash as being better for the world's poor: greater use of coal-fired power plants, tourism in Myanmar, the spread of McDonald's franchises, outsourcing jobs, frankenfoods, foreign aid and child labor. Here's the kicker, though -- they cloak almost every one of these changes under a mantle of social entrpreneurship, without, of course, talking much about the real heroes that movement has generated, most of whom are deeply committed to justice and sustainability and would be appalled at the gross appropriation of their work here.

Unfortunately, this won't be the last effort to world-wash bad ideas, but it is another indicator that the phrase "social entrepreneur" needs a make-over, and quickly.

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Comments

I'm personally very annoyed at "Frankenfoods" as being included in your list of things bad for the poor. Besides the obvious scare label, this shows that you should do some real research into genetically modified foods. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with them, and they have great potential to make farming more productive, and people healthier. I can't believe how many people base their opinions of something merely on the labels they hear.


Posted by: Conan on 14 Oct 04

Well, Conan, we have addressed the issue of GMO foods at some length, for instance
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/000124.html
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/000636.html

The biggest factor here, to me, is that most of the nations on Earth do not want the current generation of GMO foods, and have resisted being forced to import them, and their position is utterly distorted by the website in question here.


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 14 Oct 04



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