"Every Drop Is Green":
Bottled Water, the Wilderness Ideal,
and the Evolution of Green Advertising

Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Spring 2010, Volume 9, Issue 1
http://www.americanpopularculture.com/journal/articles/spring_2010/boime.htm

 

Eric Boime
San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Campus


“Every drop is green,” proclaimed Fiji Water’s 2008 marketing blitz. Like its much bigger competitors, Nestle (Perrier) and Coco-Cola (Dasani), the bottler began using alternative energies, lighter plastic, less packaging material, and more efficient shipping routes. Fiji Water, however, trumped the industry. It pledged not just to reduce its carbon emissions, or even merely to neutralize them, but to counteract the net impact of global climate change. According to its official website, FijiGreen.com, the company is offsetting remaining energy consumption by preserving and reforesting the Fiji’s lush lowland rainforests, covering its net emissions by 120% and offering native Fijians employment opportunities other than logging.

FijiGreen.com continues to post laudatory praise by earth-loving fans, as well as by b-list entertainers, who tout the company’s carbon negative campaign as an exemplary model of sustainable capitalism. The site will direct you to Elle magazine's 2008 green issue, which awarded Fiji Water a 2008 Green Award "alongside fellow recipients" Paul McCartney and Brad Pitt: “people, products and concepts that put energy and our planet in the right place.” Spokesmen for Conservation International, the nonprofit group working with the company extol the virtues of compromise and caution skeptics and naysayers to wake up to a “consumer reality,” where domestic sales of bottled water exceed those of beer and milk. In the last three decades, annual individual consumption has j-curved from 5.7 to 27.6 gallons. Pragmatism, they assert, dictates using “the economy as it exists to make a difference” (Deutch).

Such promotions are part of a wave of “green sheen” advertisements by long time enemies of the environmental movement, including the (“Clean”) Coal industry, General Motors (“It’s easy been Green”) General Electric (“Using Ecomagination”), Wal-Mart (“Save and Live Green”), and, alas, British Petroleum (“Beyond Petroleum”). While marketers have appropriated environmental values for almost a century, only recently have so many industries asked people to ask themselves what saving nature means in a consumer society. Their unprecedented need to establish their sensitivity to global ecological dilemmas indicates a grudging acceptance of global warming data (a taboo conclusion only a decade ago), as well as a conviction that the carbon imprint of their products will impact purchasing behavior.

Their distortions notwithstanding, green sheens have employed conceptions of nature and ecological responsibility mirroring larger discourses on environmentalism. This is especially true of bottled water marketing, which has long emphasized wilderness ideals historically embedded in environmental protection legislation. In recent years, however, a palpable backlash against the product has forced the industry to alter its strategy. While bottled water companies are still targeting “nature lovers,” their new campaigns have proffered a human-nonhuman dynamic that is at once divergent from its previous advertisements and reflective of a wider debate over the capacity of the market to generate environmental reform and, still wider, over the very definition of nature itself. Fiji Water and its competitors are not just combating global warming or the growing revulsion against the intricacies of bottled water production. They are also grappling with an emerging environmental consensus that is deconstructing the very notions of wilderness upon which much of their success has been built.

Fiji Water’s new ads raised inevitable ire among activists. Even if the company curbs its own excesses, it will still have limited control over its suppliers of raw material, many of whom are located in China. More to the point, argued the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, “bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently, and inalterably unconscionable. No side deals to protect forests or combat global warming can offset that reality” (qtd. in Deutsch). The sheer volumes of fossil fuels and water needed for its manufacture and shipment, the toll taken on extraction sources, and the toxicity of polyethylene terephthalate plastic all pose serious concerns about the industry’s larger sustainability. An average bottle requires an amount of oil equivalent to a quarter of its filling capacity and an amount of water that would overflow it by six-and-a-half times (Alter). Each year, some two million tons of them are added to the nation’s overburdened landfills or otherwise strewn across back alleys, forests, lakes, and beaches.

The suggestion that Fiji Water was a more socially responsible choice was especially rankling. Tap water in the United States is generally more regulated, just as healthy, and, in some cases, the actual product. The increasing privatization of global water supplies invites further questions about globalism and neoliberalism. Are private entities more capable than public ones to undertake the basic needs of human kind? For that matter, is potable water a “basic human need,” as it was defined by the 2000 World Water Forum, or a “right”? A need, unlike a right, confers value that can be commoditized (Steinberg 284). Real ethical choices could be framed around whether or not to purchase any bottled water or even whether it should be legal to produce it in the first place.

At the same time, the campaign condemned industrial licentiousness and business-as-usual. It asked individuals to take responsibility for their carbon footprint and stated that such responsibilities were essential for a sustainable living. In suggesting that every day activities were integral to the integrity of distant rainforests, its rhetoric implicitly rejected the notion of nature as a pristine, people-less space on the edge of civilization. It subsequently repudiated a long-standing marketing paradigm that presented nature and humans as separate, innately hostile entities.

Such imagined boundaries were central to selling bottled water. In the 1980s, its marketers successfully rebranded what was considered a luxury and even pretentious item into consummate daily fare by exploiting people’s isolation from nature. They associated their product with “untrammeled nature” (to use the phrase of the 1964 Wilderness Act) and, in turn, that notion with freedom, health, and purity. They drew a line between “the pristine” and “the human” and promised their consumers not only a conduit from one to the other, but an attendant, transcendent communion. In essence, they submitted their products as if they were extracted directly from nature. They deliberately downplayed the extensive terra-forming, the scientific and technological expertise, and prodigious labor that mass production entailed. “Untouched by Man,” proclaimed one of Fiji Water’s earlier, ubiquitous ads, “until you unscrew the cap.”

In fundamental ways, the formula was as old as the mass-production of food and drink. In the 1910s, the California Fruit Growers Exchange (the future Sunkist label) pulled off a similar coup when it transformed a semi-annual treat, a Christmas stocking-stuffer, into a dietary necessity. Orange growers tantalized newly urban American by correlating their produce with the restorative powers of sunshine. The sold ascorbic acids and vitamin C, especially in juice form, as a convenient and essential means to mitigate peoples’ severed relationship with land and climate. Much like the sellers of bottled water, they deliberately obscured elaborate exploitations of nature and humans (Steinberg 178-179).

Of course, orange juice did not flow copiously and ten thousand times cheaper from one’s kitchen faucet. Bottled water triumphed not only in the development of lightweight plastic, but also in the demonization of municipal water systems. To turn people away from their household taps, advertisers emphasized a wilderness ethic that bifurcated nature and humans along a geographic and righteous axis. “Out There” was pristine and uncomplicated. “Here” was toxic and adulterated. Only two years before its carbon-negative promotion, Fiji Water ads crowed, “the label says Fiji because it’s not bottled in Cleveland.” Its actual label, “the taste of Paradise,” was predicated on the amalgamation of product and place (qtd. in Connell 349). That place according to its website, was “a virgin ecosystem at the edge of a primate rainforest,” so remote “that the winds that carry acid rain and pollution to other parts of the planet just don’t come our way,” so pristine that its “water fell as rain more than 450 years ago: 200 years before the Industrial Revolution” (qtd. in Connell 344-345, 349).

The ascendancy of bottled water and sport utility vehicles in the 1980s marked the apex of this early model of green advertising. When environmentalism itself had attained a generational nadir, these products were the medium’s luminaries, each totally transforming and revitalizing their respective industries. Small wonder they are the current “poster children” for American ecological insensitivity (as opposed to, say, bottled soda). Both products were unrivaled not only in their keen capitalization of people’s alienation from nature, but also in the means by which they plied the major ideological strains of the twentieth century environmental movement.

Since the demise of the American frontier, wrote Roderick Nash, Americans conceived of wilderness as an antidote to civilization (145). In the early twentieth century, flourishing Boy Scout chapters and hunting clubs, booming sales of outdoor recreation equipment, and best-selling books by Jack London (The Call of the Wild) and Edward Rice Burroughs (Tarzan) expressed a general disquiet over modernity. Buck’s harrowing progression from domesticated dog to pack leader and Tarzan’s from British aristocrat to “King of the Jungle” dramatized the salubrious power of wild nature and its capacity to inspire personal excellence. Alpinists and mountain enthusiasts, the Sierra Club being the most famous, became the major architects, conveyors, and defenders of preservationist ideology. Their tales of personal daring in and around the nation’s glaciers, canyon lands, and high sierras, all places regularly featured in SUV and bottled water advertisements, unfolded narratives of redemption and purification. Mountains, more than any other geographic phenomenon, came to embody sacred wilderness iconography.

Early bottled water and SUV ads illustrated the elasticity of these ideals. SUVS, which staved off the eventual collapse of the American auto industry, were proffered as an escape from one’s monotonous, bureaucratic, urban reality. The Nissan Pathfinder promised, “Enough Surf for everyone. Enough mountains for everyone. Enough seats for everyone” (Aronczyk). Models were showcased barreling through challenging, exotic, and remote terrain – ice capped mountain ranges, rushing rivers, dense jungles, and desert expanses. Invariably, the footage was spliced with adrenaline-seeking, outdoor-recreation enthusiasts and feral animals associated with speed, strength, and agility. Campaigns like those of the Volvo All Wheel-Drive Cross Country (“A Volvo that can save your soul”) and the Ford Explorer (“Where the pavement ends, the world begins”), observed historian Jennifer Price, denoted nature as “a Place Apart” (xv, xxi, 207, 243). Nature was a sphere totally separate from where most people conducted the daily business of survival. In a 1995 Nissan Frontier commercial, your standard “organization man” stares longingly at a new model until he morphs into a robust, bearded, flannel-wearing sportsman. He then tosses away his cell phone, climbs behind the wheel, and heads to the Rockies. Such demarcations routinely intimated that our own suburban and urban neighborhoods were unnatural.

During the same period (1990-1997), U.S sales of private water climbed from 115 million dollars to four billion. The industry’s lucrative association of bottled water with “Nature as a Place Apart” hardly demanded an imaginative leap. Environmentalists and nature writers held up free-flowing (undammed and unimpounded) waters, like the snowcapped mountainscapes they emanated from and with which they were inextricably associated, as idyllic wilderness. The century’s seminal environmental battles over Hetch-Hetchy Valley, Dinosaur National Park, and Glen Canyon invoked these motifs. Spring water connoted immaculateness and distance. Municipal water was “rejected by Mother Nature,” a Glaceau ad teased, but it was the industry’s message taken to its logical extreme.

Turn-of-the-century conservationists might not have even challenged Glaceau’s characterization of municipal water systems. From their perspective, “Mother Nature’s” waters flowed “uselessly” to the sea. They were waste waters, unredeemed and unreclaimed. In opposition, preservationists like John Muir argued that those waters were divine and hallowed. Bottled water ads concurred. It was indeed divine. It was also for sale (a prospect that would have disgusted Muir). The bottlers just had to maintain the elaborate fiction that theirs was not an industrialized product.

The industry was intrinsically poised to exploit the subjective meanings of nature and the sway of consumption on them. The history of bottled water illustrated how the “wilderness ideal” could be an intensely litigated, internationally disputed matter. H2O was no absolute chemical designation. For thirty years, lawsuit after lawsuit induced the FDA to grapple with appropriate guidelines for labeling spring, mineral, and artesian waters. In 1995, the Washington Post naively presented this litigation as evidence that bottled water manufactures were corporate anomalies in “their passionate crusade for federal oversight” (Skyrzycki). This stalwart image eclipsed the intense inter-trade rivalry over labeling, the capacity of the largest and wealthiest companies to define the terms, and the manner in which they used them to consolidate their oligarchy. Water classifications were driven by profits and political gamesmanship, as much as by geology and chemistry.

The most contentious quarrels in the 1990s pitted smaller American companies against the European powerhouses of Danone International (the maker of Evian) and Perrier. By mid-decade, the latter had aggressively absorbed major American operations, such as Calistoga and Arrowhead, and amassed fifty percent of the nation’s market. To protect their remaining share, smaller bottlers sued the transnationals for making “false, misleading, or potentially misleading” claims regarding their product’s origins (qtd. in Berton). According to the lawsuit, the bigger companies did not truly capture water from the source, which, by standard geological accounts, was the point where ground water gurgled over the surface. Instead of positioning springhouses above the spring, they utilized mechanical bore holes that pumped the aquifers from below and at a distance from the genuine orifice. According to the lawsuit, this cheaper, faster, more efficient method of extracting water was not only more destructive to local ecologies, it negated the definition of spring water.

After several years, both parties settled. European enterprises agreed to mete out ten million dollars in discounts and charities over the course of the decade, a paltry sum relative to their profits. In the interim, the market had changed significantly. Most small companies, including the suit’s filers, went under, and the majority of bottled water was coming from boreholes. The Danone Corporation successfully sued the state of California to expand spring water’s acceptable drilling distance to whatever span deemed necessary, and the International Bottled Water Association lobby persuaded the FDA that any labeling distinctions regarding boreholes and springs were unwarranted. Boreholes were permitted as long as they maintained the identical chemical make-up of the spring, a ruling that was practically impossible to enforce. A spokesman for Perrier Group could now contend, “It’s not just our definition. It’s the FDA’s, the EPA’s and several state health regulatory agencies” (qtd. in Berton).

The industry was thus free to continue expending hundreds of millions of dollars shaping cultural conceptions about the spiritual and physical remunerations derived from spring water. They sponsored countless sporting events, fun-runs, charitable events, Hollywood film festivals, and Earth Days. They manipulated medical axioms “to drink more water” (a popular Aquafina slogan), as much as eight glasses a day, though much of the daily requirement could be found in food such as vegetables and noodles (Royte 35-36). They cautioned consumers that dehydration was the source of myriad mental and physical maladies and that their particular brands were conducive to smooth skin, shiny hair, and longevity. Invariably, rejuvenation came not just from the intake but also from the purge. People needed to flush their bodies of the assorted toxins intrinsic to modern living.

The bottle’s increasing social panache was demonstrable everywhere in popular culture. Magazines depicted the product as an essential accoutrement for beautiful models, athletes, musicians, and actors. Tabloid stories circulated about movie stars who demanded that their trailers be stocked with enough to bathe in. In the 1999 sitcom It’s Like, You Know, a Seinfeld-knock-off about Los Angelinos, the tetchy New York City transplant is immediately given a bottle of Evian over his protestations and told not to ask questions. (Five years later, Fiji Water surpassed all other brand in its ability to win product placement.) Critics understandably speculated that the industry’s public relations outlay undermined social expectations for what was a relatively safe, affordable, public service (Snitow and Kaufman 144). The kind of voters who spent more money on water than on gasoline might very well be less inclined to pass the bonds necessary for fixing aging municipal systems. “The most important body of water is your own,” stressed Evian ads. The commons and its bureaucratic custodians were implicitly undependable.

The private sector’s smashingly successful appropriation of wilderness values occurred in the context of the contemporaneous decline of the environmental movement and of the resurgent conservative culture it signified. In the Age of Reagan, the movement’s aggregate triumphs in the sixties and seventies – the unprecedented litigation of nature, an emergent federal regulatory apparatus, and the injection of environmental values in the lexicon of popular culture – had to be seriously qualified. As a counterpoint to Jimmy Carter, who blamed the nation’s citizenry for its energy woes, Ronald Reagan faulted big government. (Reagan ceremoniously tore down the White House’s solar panels installed by his predecessor.) Critical legislation was repealed or ignored. Government regulatory agencies became toothless, underfunded entities, staffed with people not only hostile to the movement’s goals, but with direct ties to the very industries in need of regulation.

Environmental dialogue, wrote historian Hal Rothman, deteriorated into “a litmus test,” not unlike the debate over abortion, which “alienated people between the extremes.” Policy debates painted a false choice between “jobs or nature,” stark options that made compromise not just “impossible,” but “an abdication of moral responsibility” (Rothman 132). In the rare instance that environmentalism was mentioned in the 1992 Presidential debates, George H. Bush derisively labeled its advocates as fringe members of “the spotted owl club,” referencing the controversial efforts to regulate logging in the Pacific Northwest. The movement proved unable to either escape the pejorative label of “elitism” or transform the popularity of its agenda into concerted action. Instead, that popularity encouraged cooption by the private sector, characterized not only by advertisements hocking wilderness values by mean of personal consumption but also by a series of soft environmental policies touting “market based incentives” over government regulation and “technological optimism” over institutional change (Dowie 106).

Bottled water and SUVS ads perfectly embodied the criticism of activists, journalists, and academics, many of whom looked inward to explain the movement’s waning potency. Did such industries actually distort the ideology behind environmental reform in the twentieth century, they asked, or did they use its dogmatic origins for different ends? “Wilderness” was an “unnatural…human creation,” asserted MacArthur winner William Cronon, who took aim at the famous mantra: “In Wilderness is the preservation of the world” (Cronon 69-70, 81). To the complete contrary, he argued, wilderness’s sacredness in American culture had been tragically predicated on its separateness from human endeavors and that disconnect has hampered our ability to overcome environmental problems. In Uncommon Ground (1995), published at the same time Big Water was driving the definition of purity, he and other leading environmental historians argued that wilderness was a social construction that subjectively valued some spaces over others and that it was employed in a way that obscured humankind’s dependence on nature. Such duplicity was intellectually, if not morally, akin to the marketing strategies employed by the bottlers.

Academics argued that phenomena such as the Grand Canyon and the Mall of America were both products of nonhuman and human energies, forces simultaneously elemental and ideologica (White 557). There was no immaculate nature, no inherent human-non-human conflict, and no fall from grace when nature was utilized. Such tropes, they argued, cast all “uses of nature as abuses of nature” (Cronon 79-80). They also enabled industrialists to stake a moral high ground. Environmentalism became a wedge issue precisely because corporations took the lead in reminding consumers that their material comforts rested on nature’s exploitation, when this fact should have furthered both agendas.

Critical muckraking tracts like Robert Gottlieb’s Forcing the Spring (1993) and Mark Dowie’s Losing Ground (1995) similarly urged the movement’s sympathizers to focus less on wilderness preservation. They argued that its preoccupation had ignored the problems of non-white, non-middle class people and marginalized the movement’s rank and file. As a consequence, debate ominously moved “from the courtroom to boardroom” (Dowie 106). Environmental organizations grew highly professionalized and pursued “pragmatic” and “flexible” compromises. Chemical, gas, and oil companies became major donors to environmental organizations, winning not only favorable press releases, but the right to vet any legal action taken against them (Dowie 142).

Ostensibly, these kinds of critiques validated the “elitist” label that had long dogged environmental activists. In actuality, they sought to create a more inclusive environmental consciousness, a goal that ran exactly contrary to the movement’s haters.

Human influence on seemingly celestial phenomena such as ocean levels and climates informed their advocacy. By 2001, international climate research programs increasingly suggested that the planet operated as a single system, one receptive to human activity. These conclusions inevitably eroded conceptual classifications of untrammeled and exploited spaces, and, with them, the rhetorical wedge of environmental politics. A wave of popular bestsellers by authors of various political affiliations followed suit. Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, Edward Wilson’s The Creation, and Ron Dreher’s Crunchy Cons, among others, emphasized the universality of environmentalism and meshed its agenda with those of anti-terrorism, evangelicalism, and traditional conservative values. In the last presidential election, both candidates denied the exclusivity of “jobs and nature” and promised to outdo each other in the battle against global warming.

Fiji Water’s and other opportunistic “green sheens” are indicative of this cultural and political shift, not least of which is demonstrable in their acceptance of leading climate change theory. By making consumers contemplate the consequences of their actions, marketers have endeavored to tie consumption to the natural world in ways that earlier green advertisements deliberately discouraged. We often do not think about the inner workings behind the products we buy, but it was precisely this alienation that made earlier bottled water (and SUV) advertising so mordant in the 1990s. Bottlers exploited our isolation from nature, first, to shill “nature,” and, second, to mask their products’ toll on natural resources. The trick was lucrative, but also tenuous.

Bottled water was “no longer cool,” pronounced Fortune magazine in 2007. In the five years prior, dozens of news magazines, consumer groups, and environmental organizations published their own exposé on the industry. Many celebrities, including Madonna, who simulated oral sex with an Evian bottle in her 1996 documentary, Truth or Dare, advocated a return to the tap. All brands were jettisoned from the menu of Chez Panisse, and fashion designer Pierre Cardin offered free carafes to thirty thousand French restaurants to discourage bottled water sales. The National Association of Americans Nuns declared privatized water immoral. The U.S. Conference of Mayors formally denounced the industry for taxing municipal garbage services and landfills on one hand and undercutting public water services on the other. The mayors of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and several others cities banned municipal-funded purchases. Chicago implemented a special “water bottle” tax. New York waged a public relations campaign on behalf of its own public supply (“Get your Fill”) (Royte 137-174). Domestic sales dipped for the very first time in 2008, and, while they did so only slightly, they defied a thirty year trend. Fiji Water let go a fifth of its work force at the end of that fiscal year (Mui).

The popular recoil embraced an environmentalism that was invested in the well-being of homes, neighborhoods, and communities, not in a distant, so-called “virgin” landscape. The link between climate change and commodity exports hit Fiji Water particularly hard. Slogans like “the taste of paradise” became less an invitation to partake in an exotic locale and more of an argument to boycott the brand. Quintessential “Out There” wilderness terminology, which earlier marketers exploited, and which Fiji had exploited to the utmost, was now a liability. Fiji’s distance from Cleveland portended to imminent calamites closer to home.

Critics aggressively dressed down pretentions of purity, a development hastened by the industry itself. As Coca-Cola and Pepsi corporations reconstructed and further concentrated the industry, they stretched the concept of natural water to the limits of consumer and legal countenance. Despite the mountain vistas depicted on the bottles and the label of “pure water,” their brands came neither from a spring nor a borehole nor any private geologic source. Like forty-four percent of all bottles sold domestically in 2006, they came from municipal water sources. They were highly filtered, making them arguably different substances, but also more energy intensive. In 2007, a consumer advocacy organization successfully compelled Pepsi’s Aquafina, the biggest selling bottle, to spell out “public water source” on its sticker. “If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do,” a PepsiCo spokeswoman said after the decision, even though the company had fended off related criticism for years (Tong). Aquafina’s webpage eventually redefined “purity” not as a geological phenomenon, but as an outcome of “state-of-the-art…reverse osmosis and carbon filtration.” Nevertheless, watchdog and investigative agencies conducted tests revealing that most bottled water was not safer than tap water. Officials from Cleveland could even cite analyses proving that Fiji Water had higher levels of arsenic than theirs.

Not only were all watersheds tainted by industrialization, but the bottles themselves embodied industrialization’s worst excesses. They blighted landscapes, leached toxins into soils and streams, and posed health risks. Notably, one of the reasons it has been so hard to definitely prove the biological hazards of polyethylene terephthalate plastic is the sheer amount of pollutants already present in our body chemistry. No single study can determine which carcinogen or combination of carcinogens is more fatal than any other. “The most important body of water may be your own,” as Evian says, but that water, like the aquifers are permanently laced with synthetic emissions. Thus, plastic will be presumed safe until cancer, miscarriages, and birth defects occur in preponderance and in easily discernable patterns (Markowitz and Rosner 292).

This multi-prong condemnation of bottled water spoke to human-centered environmental predicaments that necessarily undermined the mythology of pristine realms and wild spaces. In equating the consumption and protection of the rainforest, Fiji Water’s carbon-negative campaign responded in kind. The rainforest remained sacred iconography, but that sacredness was not enough to justify its preservation. Rather, the company’s promotion of reforestation and efficient production underscored the mutual dependence and shared fate of the Fiji rainforests and its buyers across the ocean. It placed the act of purchasing Fiji water in a larger calculation of one’s carbon footprint, in the sum of one’s material choices. It thus offered the purchaser the opportunity to become John Seed’s deep ecologist’s archetype: “part of the rainforest protecting itself” (251).

As Fiji Water and like-minded corporations strive to coop environmental reform and contain it in the private sector, they have been forced to reconcile the kind of individualism conducive to buying privatized, expensive water in disposable containers with an ethos of communal responsibility. While the antithetical impulses of consumerism and conservation are apparent, the wholesale condemnation of consumerism in all its forms (and thus all uses of nature) neglects its transcendent role in the history of environmental politics. Environmental historians have increasingly shown that modern popular attitudes toward nature have been shaped by the separation of production and consumption, a defining phenomenon of a consumer society. Paved roads, electricity, supermarkets, and shopping malls, observed Gregory Summers, transformed nature as “a means of production – a source of work, hardship, and resources – ” into a source of pleasure and well-being and, accordingly, into something worthy of legal protection (Summers 11). The wilderness paradigm which dominated twentieth century environmental reform emanated from this transformation.

An emerging environmental consensus has purposely deconstructed this paradigm. The new onus for reformers, it suggests, is to undo our alienation from nature’s processes and thus abandon the premise that humans and nature occupy exclusive and hostile spheres. “The issue,” wrote Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shenberger in their recent eulogy for the environmental movement, “is not whether humans should control Nature but rather how humans should control natures – nonhuman and human” (Shellenberger 32). This is no simple rhetorical change. Wilderness ideals, embedded in landmark legislation like the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act, have been legitimate and prominent legal mechanisms to curb development. At the same time, they have reinforced the wedge politics that have hindered comprehensive political progress. As those politics have diminished, advertisers have increasingly acknowledged (even as they “spin”) the ecological impacts of their products. Perhaps those politics will one day be so diminished that they will prevent those same advertisers, the marketers of Fiji Water among them, from dominating the helm of environmental reform.


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