I spy… Consumption is Consuming Us

In Society Now, Autumn 2016, Issue 26, p. 7 (read it here)

Helping us think before we buy

A research into how to promote sustainable consumption in the fashion and energy industries by University of Sheffield and the London College of Fashion found that “consumers feel detached from the processes that bring electricity, gas and water into their homes, and put clothes into shops for them to buy”.

Linguistically (the Linguini can hardly think of anything else, really) note the interesting clause above:

Many consumers (P1) feel detached from [the processes (P2) [[that bring electricity, gas and water into their homes, and put clothes into shops [[[for them to buy]”.

  1.  Following the Hallidayan Systemic Functional Linguistics, the transitive verb: feel, is a mental process which presents the state of affairs as an experience. The first participant (P1) is an exepriencer (or sensor) while participant 2 is the phenomenon. In my view, this exemplifies the problem itself: the processes (P2) are people: people are unseen in this process and exploited to make waterways, drill for oil and gas, make endless stuff most people do not need.

2. …The processes [that] put clothes into shops

In this embedded clause we can observe the further distance from the part humans have in creating and sustaining consumerist culture. Processes don’t put clothes in shops- humans do. Shops are relegated to circumstance, merely an ‘innocent’ place, nothing more. However, shops are THE physical place where consumerism takes place, and where consumers interact.

Perhaps the researchers identified this fact because they suggest that “if retailers can better highlight how their goods and services are manufactured this may make people think twice before making purchases they will not value”. 

Is this a realistic suggestion? What incentive would retailers have to demonstrate this? My first thought goes to the project I am currently researching and involves animal welfare. Would Sainsbury’s expose the cruelty of the dairy industry to inform its customers of it?

Overall, it is commandable on the researcher’s part to investigate consumer’s awareness and the impact of their consumption. However, it is a shame this is limited to “social and economic footprints” and does not include the environment and nonhuman animals.






The author is willing to remove any content that may infringe on copyrights

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