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why LOHAS isn’t going to save the world

August 7, 2009

Just in case you’ve been hiding in a cave with bin Laden, Elvis Presley and the tattered remnants of a global democracy, LOHAS (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability) is the next big thing.

With a global market value in excess of $300 billion, and growing at a rate of between 20 and 300% (depending on who you talk to, and which sub-section of the market you’re looking at) it seems that times couldn’t be better for the organic-sprout eating, hybrid-car driving, Fair-Trade wearing moral collective-barometer.

I oughta know – I’m one of them.

But the trouble with LOHAS (aside from the fact that it’s yet another acronym to remember) is that it’s been co-opted by eco-consumerism – and as such, seems destined to fail before it’s even really got out of the gate.

It wasn’t that long ago, addressing an audience of Wellness professionals, that I recounted the story of how I came to be doing what I’m doing …. in a moment of Newtonian inspiration involving a mango, ocean and post yoga bliss, recognising the enormous potential inherent in simply changing the way we consume.

I declared that ‘this market, more than any other, has the potential to fundamentally and irrevocably change the world for the better’.

That was before watching marketers support well-intentioned but misguided entrepreneurs flood the market with a plethora of products the world would truly be better off without – catering to the need of the individual to feel as if they are actively involved in the same great battle for our survival.

Row after row of ‘toxic free’ soap, bottled water from the Pacific, shrink-wrapped smoked salmon from Tasmania, tins of organic tomatoes from Equador.

And don’t get me started on the massive carbon cloud hanging over the meat freezer at Wholefoods.

As the founder of the Sea Shepherds recently declared (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Better to be a vegan driving a hummer than a carnivorous cyclist

It’s a sickness – an addiction to ‘personal change’ without a deep appreciation for the compounding nature of personal choice. An addiction to ‘freedom’ – at least the poor substitute for freedom (freedom of choice) we’ve settled for.

As Gibran once said:

At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

In many countries – capitalist democracies in general, and the USA in particular – it seems time for individual freedom to be sacrificed in service to a greater freedom – that of the freedom for all of us to live.

We have no time left for political correctness. We have no time left to be polite. What we really need is for our apparently enlightened leaders to declare a state of emergency with little concern for what it will cost them personally (do we really want to be standing on the scorched earth singing REM‘s ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it ….. and I feel fine’?)

O! to see Oprah take a stand and move from serving the ever-escalating and largely vacuous demands of the Baby Boomers to ensuring that their as yet largely-unborn great-grandchildren inherit a world worth inheriting.

I’m far less interested in Dr Phil than I am in Hunter Lovins and while I think Deepak certainly had some interesting things to say, I’m far from convinced that metaphysics is going to save us.

Maybe it’s time we went in search of real discomfort – not the discomfort that comes from confronting a pattern of neurotic behaviour that sees us dating mysogynists, matriarchs and alcoholics. Let’s embrace the inevitable discomfort of answering the question

in the face of what we know about the state of the world, and our part in it, how is it most prudent to act?

There is no stone that should remain unturned, no sacred cow we should not consider making burgers out of. It’s time for discussions about politics, religion and consumerism to take centre stage, for all of us to call into question the irrational and dangerous beliefs that have brought us to the precipice. It’s time to wage war on superstition and unsubstantiated belief and embrace reason.

Your lifestyle choice IS my concern – your diet is my concern, your means of transportation is my concern, your politics are my concern, your religion is my concern.

Whatever you believe or do that in any way impacts upon my freedom to live is my concern – and it’s time for some unapologetic and rigorous questioning. And if you don’t like it – move to Iran or China (or turn back the clock twelve months in the USA)!

The LOHAS market is a transitional market – one that has arisen largely in response to a global outcry against waste and in favour of a more prudent and economically conservative lifestyle. It’s a market dripping with potential. But this potential is only going to waste while so many of us drive our SUV’s across town to ‘buy organic’ – instead of taking the time to nurture our own veggie patch, or better still a community garden.

There is a responsibility that comes with knowledge about health & sustainability – and that is to do something with that knowledge.

Let’s take these conversations – that so often take place on blogs, around coffee shops and in bars – and elevate them to the point of civil unrest before this is the only option remaining to us.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2009 01:24

    Cameron,

    Thank you for thinking this through & putting it in words.

    The rights of the collective (including developing communities & subsequent generations) has to take precedence of the “rights” of individuals if they compromise the ability of others to meet their human needs.

    I love the cognitive behavioural approach that you are taking: to identify irrational beliefs that lead to thoughts, feelings & behaviours.

    regards,

    Ro

  2. August 8, 2009 13:12

    I took a look at an electric car. Itself a few years away. But what if the power was green self sustaining; maybe energy from your solar panels, feeding back into the grid and charging your car at night.

    Self sustainability is not a pipe dream, it is the future.
    I hope that your concept of LOHAS catches on.

    David Pylyp
    Living in West Toronto

  3. August 8, 2009 21:05

    To the tune of “Hotel California”

    (Apologies to the Eagles, I really need to learn to write my own melodies.)

    I had a newtonian moment,… Read more
    In a post-yoga bliss,
    But my road to Damascas,
    Became a Judas’s kiss.
    Coopted by Eco-consumerism sealed LOHAS’s fate,
    Destined now to failure to even get out the gate.
    While 2.6 Billion people lack designated places for their poos,
    The marketeers in Byron sell organic leather shoes.

    Chorus:
    Lifestyles of health and sustainability,
    Aint gonna save the world,
    LOHAS can’t save the world,
    Without ecological sustainability,
    It’s ideology with no ecology….

    Organic tomatoes shipped from Equador,
    Bottled water from Fiji,
    We cannot save a planet when it still all about me.
    head to toe organic lycra, They cluster on their bikes,
    We’d be better off if they drove Hummers than ate carbon intensive diets…
    Life cycle assessement of health & sustainability,
    Needs to take account of all the embodied energy…
    It may be all natural, it may be 99% fat free, but its 100% free of credibility.

    Chorus…

    Let’s take these conversations from our blogs, cafes & bars,
    Consumption causes climate change – coal and cows and cars
    Find your political representatives – Tell them how you feel.
    We have to let Steve Fielding know that Climate change is real….

    To be continued………

  4. August 29, 2009 03:22

    punctilious post. simply one detail where I quarrel with it. I am emailing you in detail.

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  1. are religion and sustainability mutually exclusive? « uncompromise

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