iTox

Greenpeace has built a site based on the look and feel of apple.com, but chock-full of information on the environmental impact of Apple’s products and flimsy reclamation program. I’m not sure it’s fair to single out one computer manufacturer, since the entire industry is toxic. But targeting Apple does help to make the point more tangible. Apple is renowned for their elegant but excessive packaging, and its left-leaning userbase probably assumes that just because Apple is “alternative” it must ipso facto be doing good stuff environmentally. Thought this was a very good point:

You can’t recycle toxic waste If Apple doesn’t drop the toxics from its products, it doesn’t matter how good a recycling program they have. Because toxics make recycling more hazardous.

I like this idea too:

We’re not asking for just “good enough.” We want Apple to do that “amaze us” thing that Steve does at MacWorld: go beyond the minimum and make Apple a green leader.

Apple has responded to environmental criticism in the past, and has even been named one of the Top 10 Environmentally Progressive Companies. Not sure how that squares with Greenpeace ranking Apple the fourth worst

Anyway, the site is really nicely done, and drives the message home to Mac owners. It’s too easy to push uncomfortable truths under the rug when you’re involved in a love affair.

Music: Seeds :: Up In Her Room

12 Replies to “iTox”

  1. The thing to remember is that Greenpeace will not be happy as long as there is civilization. Yes, they bring some valid ecological concerns to the table, but they are extremists, and as such, are not to be trusted or believed.

    -Jim

  2. Hi Jim –

    I don’t think that’s fair to say about Greenpeace. Groups such as the ELF are extremists. Greenpeace does use some interventionist tactics, but I see them more as educators / consciousness-raisers. They’ve got a long history of doing great work, without a lot of it being what I would call extreme. They do their homework; I don’t have trouble trusting or believing them (though I don’t always agree with them — for example they’re still largely anti-nuke, while I see nuclear as one of our greatest hopes for a green future).

  3. Nate –

    Fuzzy territory there. There’s no copyright statement on the code. Is copyright implied? Maybe. But the web is a giant sea of borrowing, both markup and code. That kind of interchange is so commonplace it’s almost not noteworthy. Without that capability, the web never would have taken off as it did. There’s a reason all browsers allow you to View Source (think how different this is from desktop application development — the web is open source at the core). When you put your markup or code out on public display, it’s like speaking language – we expect our words and phrases and ideas to enter the vernacular, be moshed up with everything else. If you don’t want your code exposed, write it in a server-side language (e.g. PHP) or use a binary format (Flash, Java). I’d wager Apple’s original is cobbled together from bits and pieces of existing scrolling scripts. Who’s out there writing this kind of thing from scratch? And borrowing a chunk of javascript actually isn’t as close to copyright infringement as them borrowing the look and feel of the entire web site – that’s where the brand identity is.

    Are there other reasons you think of them as tacky?

  4. How do you tell an extremist? Well, let’s start with whether or not they feel their cause is more important than obeying the law. Try doing a web search on Greenpeace and Trespassing. And how about this one, where they were convicted of violating an environmental law. http://environmentallegal.blogs.com/sholzer/2005/05/in_the_man_bite.html

    The environment is important, but nothing important can be accomplished in this country without playing within the system, and Greenpeace and other such groups discredit organizations as enviro-loonies who say the same things, but play by the rules.

    They’ve been convicted under anti-terrorism laws as well: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2005/jun/04greenpeace.htm , but that’s probably stretching things too far.

    -Jim

  5. Jim covers the bases of Greenpeace’s “tackiness” very well. Their tact is really nonexistent — to the point where their methods of agitation discredit other individuals and organizations in the same field (hence my earlier PETA tangent). That is to say, Greenpeace does a lot of good, but it also does a fair bit of harm.

    Imagine what this world could be like if Greenpeace (or an equivalently powerful and well-known organization) had the scruples of Amnesty International. Unfair comparison? Which is more complicated to act on: environmental policy or global human rights?

    Moderation in temper is always a virtue.
    – Paine

  6. Jim, Nate – It seems like the definition of “extremist” you’re using encompasses any org that does not play within existing laws. Fair enough, there’s a certain logic to that, but a word like “extremist” is pretty loaded, and I don’t know whether there’s an “accepted” definition of “extremist” that could shed much light. Just looked it up in a couple of dictionaries, and they both used circular definitions, e.g. “One given to extreme beliefs or actions.” Lotta help there.

    Whether or not playing entirely within the system is the best way to affect change is an age-old argument, but I would ask whether Chinese citizens laying down in front of tanks are playing within the rules. Or how many endangered species would not have been saved if activists had not chained themselves to trees, etc. Greenpeace has been very effective at getting whaling laws enacted — in part due to “illegal” blockading of whaling ships, and in part due to their work within legal systems. Greenpeace does both parts very well.

    Maybe it’s a cultural perception. I was brought up to see groups like Greenpeace as heroes, and it’s never occurred to me that it was tacky to decide on an activist course when moving the system through entirely legal means was impossible.

    To me, you don’t enter the territory of extremism until people are getting hurt. What you call extremism I call conviction.

  7. There was a time in the 1960s when free speech was not allowed on UC campuses. Sit-ins and demonstrations, which were against the law, helped get those laws changed. Half a mile from where I’m sitting now, Mario Savio made a speech, which included this line, which I love:

    There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

    Right now I’m sipping coffee from the Free Speech Movement Cafe, which was erected on the spot where that speech was made.

    There is a place for activism that is outside of existing laws. It sometimes makes important differences when politicians and society aren’t paying attention or don’t care.

  8. I agree. There is a place for activism outside the law, but that place is dangerous, insane territory — especially for large activist organizations. My point is that by transgressing laws, activist organizations will always alienate a certain subset of the population. In the case of Greenpeace, that subset is quite large. If you have a large subset of the population of any country distrusting you: your credibility goes down the tubes, and it becomes difficult to get the important things done.

    Again, imagine where we’d all be if Greenpeace had the street cred of Amnesty International.

    PS – I only said they were tacky.

  9. Nate’s got some good points. A Greenpeace with the soul of an Amnesty International would be a powerful force. And would know just when and where to step outside the system* to greatest effect – instead of doing it all the time (where it becomes boring, annoying, and irrelevant).

    Not that they haven’t done some good, but they are tacky. So much so, that they lose credibility with more progressive mainstream types. Seems a waste of good time & energy…

    *Note: to be clear, it’s important to step outside the system sometimes. If we never did that, where would we be WRT the Civil Rights movement, for example :) But there’s a difference. Gandhi & MLK knew when to do so, the Weather Underground & the folks involved in the Watts riots didnt.

  10. A Greenpeace with the soul of an Amnesty International would be a powerful force.

    But not nearly as powerful as they are. Their combination of legal work and civil disobedience is extraordinarily effective, and I don’t have the perception at all that they do the CD thing too often, or are tacky.

    Greenpeace is fighting corporations (which run governments by proxy). Amnesty International is dealing with governments directly. Greenpeace is fighting the ill effects of profit. A.I. is doing pure politics. The means at the two groups disposal are very different.

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