Although we’ve been fouling our planetary
nest for centuries,
our collective environmental consciousness has
as the compression of data on our timeline suggests,
environmental activism has accelerated in response. There were
more green laws passed,
green treaties enacted, green buildings built, and
green products produced
in the last year than in the prior decade, more in the prior decade than in the prior century,
and so on…
That’s the good news.
Historians view timelines with some suspicion: They tend to flatten things out, equalize
history is, with apologies to Edna St. Vincent Millay, just ‘’one damn thing after anothe
actuality to be very, very messy.
Before the Beginning of Time
1500 1750 2000 2250 2500 2750 3000
by imagining “sustainability” not as a sequence of events–or how we got from point A
environment. The more people, the more pressure, and the more pressure, the greater
e dissimilar categories, create arbitrary starting points, and imply a false sense that
er.â€? In short, timelines aspire to tidiness whereas history (as everybody knows) tends in
3250 3500 3750 4000
We tried to get around these pitfalls
to point Bâ€”but as the story of the pressure applied by human populations on the
the likelihood of both the breakthroughs and breakdowns that populate the page.
has to do with the ever-increasing magnitude of the challenges we
currently face and our complete ignorance as to the time we have left to meet them. We know that the universe started withâ€Ś a BANG.
Contrary to T.S. Eliot, our job is to ensure that it does not end
with a whimper.
Population Our solar system was in industr y (the sun has be ver y hot and steamy), a formation of the oceans
ncorporated 4.6 billion years ago and has behaved admirably since that time: the solar een a reliable source of heat and light), the geothermal industr y (the young ear th was nd the hydroelectric industr y (with the cooling of the planet came rain, lightning, and the s) have been models of corporate citizenship. Then came the humans.
The first sign of trouble was the invention of agriculture, which sparked the rapid proliferation of our species. When King David reigned over Israel, around 1000 BC, there were about 50 million people on the planet. By the time the Buddha preached 500 years later, the number was closer to 100 million. It had doubled again when Jesus stepped forward to proclaim the kingdom of God. Our numbers, as the theologian-cum-demographer Thomas Malthus was the first to suggest, grew in geometric, not arithmetic, progression. More decisive was the creation of an industrial economy in the decades following 1770. This entailed the systematic burning of fossil fuels (first wood, then coal, then refined petroleum) to power the new factory systemâ€“a process that biologist Janine Benyus reduced to the formula of â€œheat, beat, and treat.â€? From the onset of the industrial revolution when Malthus wrote his essay on the principle of population, it took us only 123 years to add a billion hungry people, 34 years to add the next billion, then 23, then 12. Things are heating up.
What is different about the last two centuries is the dramatically increased scale of our operations and the application of modern science and industrial technology to them. In the olden days, if an axle broke the carriage would careen into a ditch and that was that. By contrast, if the landing gear of an airbus fails, a tall building collapses, or a supertanker runs aground, the human and environmental costs are catastrophic. The last century is littered with evidence of the rising stakes.
Disasters Environmental disasters are nothing new: evidence from China, Mesopotamia, Central America, North Africa, and Europe suggests that the myth of the noble savage living at one with the land is just that–a myth. Alas, we have been despoiling land, contaminating rivers, polluting air, and driving nonhumans into extinction for millennia. That does not mean, however, that there is nothing new under the sun.
Actions & Ideas Environmentalists have sounded a steady beat from at least the time that Thoreau moved to Walden Pond. Their jeremiads have fallen on largely deaf ears, and governments have invariably lagged far behind: President George W. Bush was still referring to global warming as a ‘’theory’’ when un-president Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Laws & Treaties Radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident took 11 days to circle the world and soon showed up in food supplies and waterways across Europe Nuclear fallout, acid rain, and changing weather do not respect national sovereignty, but governments still do. We must address environmental issues at every level, from local communities to the United Nations.
Design & Architecture We need to approach things in a whole new way: the materials from which they are made, the methods of their fabrication, the manner in which they are used, and their destinies once their usefulness has been exhausted. Although history offers inspiring examples, architects and designers began to embrace ‘’Whole Earth’’ thinking only in the last thirty years.
So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, itâ€™s been stripped
of its subversion
n and originality, and is leaving
over fashion, faux
individuality, cultural capital and the commodities of style.
1921 Introduction of tetraethyl additive (leaded) gasoline
R. Buckminster Fuller reveals Dymaxion philosophy; among the first to think of the earth as a â€œclosed syste
1926 Waldo Demon and B.F. Goodrich develop method to plasticize PVC
Iâ€™m sipping a scummy pint of cloudy beer in the back of a trendy dive ba types, who crowd around each other and collectively scoff at the smoking on without the slightest concern.
ar turned nightclub in the heart of the city’s heroin district. In front of me stand a gang of hippiesh grunge-punk g laws by sneaking puffs of “fuck-you,” reveling in their perceived rebellion as the haggard, staggering staff look
1931 Thomas Midgley invents Freon, first of ozone-depleting CFCS
G. Chavanne (Belgium) receives patent for biodiesel fuel
1939 Discovery of insecticidal properties of DDT (banned in 1972) Frank Lloyd Wright, An Organic Architecture
… this is a hipster party?”
I ask the girl sitting next to me.
She’s wearing big dangling earrings,
an American Apparel V-neck tee,
non-prescription eyeglasses and
an inappropriately warm wool coat.
“Are you a hipster?” “Fuck no,” she says,
laughing back the last of her glas before she hops off to the dance floor.
Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counte
er-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo.
1951 â€œLondon Fogâ€? (aka smog) kills 4,000 people
First International Air Pollution Congress held in New York City
camping gear using tensioned fabric technology; gets â€œnormalâ€? people out into nature.
1956 Mercury poisoning in Minamata, Japan Bill Moss creates lightweight ca
“London Fog” (aka sm
mog) kills 4,000 people
Mercury poisoning in M Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards,
riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.
But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change,
all of the formerly dominant streams of â€œcounter-cultureâ€? have merged together.
U.S. Congress passes Clean Air Act
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
World Wildlife Fund created to protect animals and plants
Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb Publication of the Whole Earth Catalogue: Access to Tools
1969 Cuyahoga River catches fire, downtown Cleveland Friends of the Earth established Gary Snyder founds Deep Ecology movement
1967 Torrey Canyon spills 31 million gallons of oil into the southwest English Sea. Environmental Defense Fund established
Torrey Canyon spills
31 million gallons of oil
into the southwest English Sea.
E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful
Worldwatch Institute founded
Catalytic converters installed in
Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina theorizes that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) can destroy ozone molec
U.S. Congress passes Endangered Species Act Ray Anderson founds interface
U.S. Congress passes Clean Water Act
Paolo Soleri begins constructio
production-line vehicles to reduce toxicity of automotive emissions
Carpet, announces “Mission Zero” of zero environmental impact
Club of Rome, Limits to Growth
of Arcosanti, AZ, based on the concept of “arcology” (architecture + ecology) 1971 Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World Greenpeace founded
1970 Natural Resources Defense Council established Earth Day mobilizes 20 million Americans President Nixon authorizes Environmental Protection Agency
Sim Van der Ryn erected Polar fleece, made from recycles plastic bottles, debuts
1979 Nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania James E. Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
Gregory Bateson Building by Si
Greenbelt Movement, Kenya (Nobel Peace Prize for Wangari Maathai, 2004) Paul MacCready, Gossamer Co
1978 Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY, declared federal disaster area
Condor, first successful human-powered aircraft
Take a stroll down the street in any major North American or European city and you’ll be sure to see a speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about and sporting a number of predictable stylistic trademarks: skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh–initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory.
The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning. Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clichĂŠs of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.
Ta k e
Rides her bike
This obsession with “street-cred” reaches its apex of absurdity as hipsters have recently and wholeheartedly adopted the fixedgear bike as the only acceptable form of transportation–only to have brakes installed on a piece of machinery that is defined by its lack thereof.
Lovers of apathy and irony, hipsters are connected through a global network of blogs and shops that pushforth a global vision of fashioninformed aesthetics. Loosely associated with some form of creative output, they attend art parties, take lo-fi pictures with analog cameras, ride their bikes to night clubs and sweat it up at nouveau disco-coke parties. The hipster tends to religiously blog about their daily exploits, usually while leafing through generationdefining magazines like Vice, Another Magazine and Wallpaper. This cursory and stylized lifestyle has made the hipster almost universally loathed.
es rti Pa
p ly ex
al W d
“ The se mark hipster z o e Lore ters and mbies… the m ntzen are th ark ei in a T ime O s of pred dols of th at e ut N ew Y or y real-e style pag e ork a rticle state agen s, the dar lings ts,” w entit of led ‘ W ro hy th te Christ viral ian e Hip ster M ust D ie.’
With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of â€œhipsterdomâ€? is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipsterâ€™s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, subcultures and lifestyles.
mental Defense Fund Executive Headquarters, NYC: landmark “green office”
1985 Hole in ozone layer above Antarctica identified French intelligence sinks Rainbow Warrior off New Zealand coast
McDonough & Partners, Environ
Superfund National Priority list created Introduction of compact fluores
Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins found Rocky Mountain Institute
1984 Accident at Dow’s Bhopal, India, Pesticide plant kills over 3,000
cent lightbulbs (CFLs)
Creation of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
1989 Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska IDSA initiates Eco-Committee, becomes Eco-Design Section (2003)
1988 Murder of rainforest activist Chico Mendes by Brazilian ranchers
Brundtland Report (Our Common Future) mainstreams concept of “sustainable development” Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depletion: 24 nations sign agreement to c control substances that deplete the ozone layer Construction begins on Biosph phere II, “ artificial closed ecologiacal system,: outside of Tucson, AZ
1986 Reactor accident at Chernobyl releases 7 tons of radioactive material
Standing outside an art-party next to a neat row of locked-up fixed-gear bikes, I come across a couple girls who exemplify hipster homogeneity. I ask one of the girls if her being at an art party and wearing fake eyeglasses, leggings and a flannel shirt makes her a hipster. “I’m not comfortable with that term,” she replies. Her friend adds, with just a flicker of menace in her eyes, “Yeah, I don’t know, you shouldn’t use that word, it’s just…”
“Offensive?” “No… it’s just, well… if you don’t know why then you just shouldn’t even use it.” “Ok, so what are you girls doing tonight after this party?” “Ummm… We’re going to the after-party.”
“I’ve always found that word [“hipster”] is used with such disdain, like it’s always used by chubby bloggers who aren’t getting laid anymore and are bored, and they’re just so m
mad at these young kids for going out and getting wasted and having fun and being fashionable,” he says. “I’m dubious of these hypotheses because they always smell of an agenda.”
Gavin McInnes, one of the founders of Vice, who recently left the magazine, is considered to be one of hipsterdom’s primary architects. But, in contrast to the majority of concerned media-types, McInnes, whose
Reactor accident at Chernobyl releases 7 tons of radioactive material
Eco-City Movement: Växjö, Sw
Smith & Fong introduce Plyboo
“Changing Course”: Business Council for Sustainable Development introduces concept of “eco-efficiency” United Nations Earth Summit results in Agenda 21, a blueprint for worl IBM Headquarters, Selangor, M EPA introduces Energy Star rati
1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa Hanged by Nigerian Military over protests against environmental impacts of oil extraction
wide sustainable development Malaysia: bioclimatic skyscraper rating
1990 Sweden; Guangdong, Dongtan, China
Foster & Partners, Commerzbank Headquarters, Frankfurt, Germany: world’s first ecological megatower
Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change (enacted February 2005); U.S., larg
Pearce Partnership, Eastgate, H
Paul Hawken, Amory and L. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
AIGA Committee on the Environment begins annual list of “Top Ten Green Projects” LEED (Leadership in Energy an Environmental Design) standard created to promote green building practices
1997 contributor to greenhouse emissions, declines to ratify
1996 Harare, Zimbabwe: biomimetic design, inspired by African termite mounds
Punks wear their tattered threads and studded leather jackets with honor, priding themselves on their innovative and cheap methods of self-expression and rebellion. B-boys and b-girls announce themselves to anyone within earshot with baggy gear and boomboxes. But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. Itâ€™s an odd dance of self-identity â€“ adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims it.
“He’s 17 and he lives for the scene!” a girl whispers in my ear as I sneak a photo of a young kid dancing up against a wall in a dimly lit corner of the after-party. He’s got a flipped-out, do-it-yourself haircut, skin-tight jeans, leather jacket, a vintage punk tee and some popping high tops. “Shoot me,” he demands, walking up, cigarette in mouth, striking a pose and exhaling. He hits a few different angles with a firmly unimpressed expression and then gets a bit giddy when I show him the results. “Rad, thanks,” he says, re-focusing on the music and submerging himself back into the sweaty funk of the crowd where he resumes a jittery head bobble with a little bit of a twitch. The dance floor at a hipster party looks like it should be surrounded by quotation marks. While punk, disco and hip hop all had immersive, intimate and energetic dance styles that liberated the dancer from his/her mental states – be it the head-spinning b-boy or violent thrashings of a live punk show – the hipster has more of a joke dance. A faux shrug shuffle that mocks the very idea of dancing or, at its best, illustrates a non-committal fear of expression typified in a weird twitch/ironic twist. The dancers are too self-aware to let themselves feel any form of liberation; they shuffle along, shrugging themselves into oblivion.
Introduction worldwide of Toyot
First fleet of Zipcars deployed i
Wal-Mart announces commitment to “environmental stewardship”
One Laptop Per Child Foundati
Big and Green opens at the National Building Museum, explores “Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Cent
William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle
ation announces XO-1, the “$100 laptop,” at World Economic Summit, Davos, Switzerland
2003 GM Cancels EV1 despite demand
2001 Prius, most fuel-efficient car sold in U.S.
AIGA establishes Center for Sustainable Design IDEA introduces Ecodesign category
RoHS (Restriction of the use of
Opening of California Academy
Al Goreâ€™s An Inconvenient Truth wins an Oscar; Gore shares Nobel Peace Prize with Intergovernmental Pan
2008 f Sciences, Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction, Renzo Piano, architect
2007 Panel on Climate Change
ertain Hazardous Substance in electrical and electronic equipment) established by the EU
Perhaps the true motivation behind this deliberate nonchalance is an attempt to attract the attention of the ever-present party photographers, who swim through the crowd like neon sharks, flashing little blasts of phosphorescent ecstasy whenever they spot someone worth momentarily immortalizing.
Noticing a few flickers of light splash out from the club bathroom, I peep in only to find one such photographer taking part in an impromptu soft-core porno shoot. Two girls and a guy are taking off their clothes and striking poses for a set of grimy glamour shots. It’s all grins and smirks until another girl pokes her head inside and screeches, “You’re not some club kid in New York in the nineties. This shit is so hipster!” – which sparks a bit of a catfight, causing me to beat a hasty retreat.
In many ways, the lifestyle promoted by hipsterdom is highly ritualized. Many of the party-goers who are subject to the photoblogger’s snapshots no doubt crawl out of bed the next afternoon and immediately re-experience the previous night’s debauchery. Redeyed and bleary, they sit hunched over their laptops, wading through a sea of similarity to find their own (momentarily) thrilling instant of perfected hipster-ness. What they may or may not know is that “cool-hunters” will also be skulking the same sites, taking note of how they dress and what they consume. These marketers and party-promoters get paid to co-opt youth culture and then re-sell it back at a profit. In the end, hipsters are sold what they think they invent and are spoon-fed their pre-packaged cultural livelihood.
Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.
An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over. “If you don’t give a damn, we don’t give a fuck!” chants an emcee before his incitements are abruptly cut short when the power plug is pulled and the lights snapped on.
Dawn breaks and the last of the after-after-parties begin to spill into the streets. The hipsters are falling out, rubbing their eyes and scanning the surrounding landscape for the way back from which they came. Some hop on their fixed-gear bikes, some call for cabs, while a few of us hop a fence and cut through the industrial wasteland of a nearby condo development. The half-built condos tower above us like foreboding monoliths of our yuppie futures. I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyah and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise. We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.
Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization by Douglas Haddow, 29 July 2008. Our Only Planet by Barry Katz, July/August 2008.
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Picture Credits Intro 1900
1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970
geog.ucsb.edu http://3media.initialized.org/photos/index.html 20th Century Fashion by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye. 20th Century Fashion by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye and Fashion: The Twentieth Century by Francois Baudot. stuffhipstersdontlike.wordpress.com 20th Century Fashion by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye. centerline.grobbel.org anthem.net.au 20th Century Fashion by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye. lindasascotpub.kilu.de wikipedia.org daylife.com healthandenergy.com Fashion: The Twentieth Century by Francois Baudot. jennifermarohasy.com, outdoorlife.blogs.com, picturecorrect.com, nationalgeographic.com getenglishlessons.com, wikipedia.org, <http://www.savethetigerfund.org/Content/NavigationMenu2/ Community/FreeTigerPictures/default.htm> chinaodysseytours.com puplet.blogspot.com fashionsphere.wordpress.com gwu.edu/gelman wikipedia.org naturecanada.ca blainekendall.com <http://oiswww.eumetsat.org/WEBOPS/iotm/iotm/20071003_ozone/2007_10_03_ma_gome2_ ozone_level4_med.jpg> <http://farm1.static.flickr.com/72/218553500_b2ee528066.jpg?v=0> kickette.com nationalgeographic.com <http://www.freewebs.com/thewestbelfastvolunteers/gw_smokebombcharge_01.jpg> cgfocus.com pbase.com/artbyjocelyn
Douglas Haddow was born and raised in the interior of British Columbia, amidst the snowy peaks of the Selkirk Mountains. When he was 12 years old, he took a hard fall off his bicycle and hit his head on the concrete, waking up two hours later only to realize what he wanted to do with his life. He now lives in Vancouver and works as a magazine journalist.
Sarah Kusuma was born and raised in Pennsylvania. She was also raised in Michigan and Florida, amidst the mountains, cornfields, and swamps. She was often very careful about getting injured and therefore had no sudden revelation on what it was she wanted to be when she grew up. As it stands she has decided to follow in her parents footsteps and attend university studying communication design. During her stint at school she was acquainted with the work of Douglas Haddow and they have since collaborated on many projects, Good News, Bad News the first in a long line.
Compares and contrasts two unrelated texts Hipster: Dead End of Western Civilization by Douglas Haddow, originally published in Adbusters Ma...