Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

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Beaches, Babes, and Conservation: What’s Wrong With That?

2/9/2012 10:55:23 AM

Tags: sex, activism, Nature Conservancy, swimsuits, beaches, journalism, environment, Folio, Gilt City, Keith Goetzman

Swimsuit model 

The Nature Conservancy is taking a new stripped-down approach to environmental protection: The green group is teaming up with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and online luxury retailer Gilt to raise money for beach preservation in an unholy mashup of sex, commerce, marketing, publishing, and environmentalism.

Why the green tie-in? “Because everyone benefits from pristine tropical beaches. Especially when they’re occupied by gorgeous women in bathing suits.” That’s according to promotional prose about the partnership on the Gilt website, in an announcement that is no longer posted. (Though you can still buy a $1,000 ticket to a New York launch party where you can hang out with the swimsuit supermodels.)

Gilt will be selling Sports Illustrated-themed swimsuits, surfboards, photos, and other merch on its site, with all ecommerce sale proceeds going “to preserve the beaches SI features in its pages,” reports Folio magazine.

Not everyone is sold on the mission. “What’s next for The Nature Conservancy?” wrote a commenter on Folio. “Partnering with porn sites?”

I understand the writer’s sentiment. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has long been an overhyped exercise in sexual objectification and anorexia induction, and I’m not sure why The Nature Conservancy thinks it will benefit from hitching its green message to the marketing machine that cranks out this cheeseball, throwback brand of softcore year after year. The association seems to risk putting off every potential supporter who doesn’t think Mad Men is a look back at the good old days.

Environmental writer Derrick Jensen of Orion already saw this sort of thing coming, having penned a prescient column in the current issue titled “Not in My Name.” Go ahead and call him a killjoy, but I think he pretty much nailed it:

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. … The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. …

Unfortunately, the notion that activism … has to be fun and sexy pervades the entire environmental movement, from the most self-styled radical to the most mainstream reformist.

Sources: Folio, Gilt Groupe, Orion 

Image by Mark Sebastian, licensed under Creative Commons. 



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Post a comment below.

 

Brett Gustafson
3/7/2012 11:32:12 PM
Putting a face on problems, making them know is a very powerful tactic!thanks for taking that work on. I do think there is room for both approaches though.

Bills Channel
2/15/2012 2:12:49 PM
My approach is to embarrass people. On a recent trip to Bali, I was horrified by the condition of the beaches there. So I made a video called Paradise Trashed and put it on Youtube. 30,000 views later with many negative comments I am ready to send the link to Bali Government and point out how the trash on their beaches is very bad for their main industry - tourism. I think this direct approach has more chance of succeeding than girls in Bikinis And I don't have to deal with corporate interests at SI which is owned by Time Warner - a company that is involved in using rainforest wood for movie sets. .Check the video out at http://youtu.be/w_Qa1IqoR5Q or visit my channel on youtube called billschannel.

Cary Adams
2/14/2012 4:27:39 PM
I don't agree with Nature Conservancy policies of preserving important sites by making them available only to rich people. Beautiful places that I used to visit on the Virginia coast and in the Virginia mountains are now only accessible to wealthy landowners since the sites were "preserved" by Nature Conservancy. Campaigns like the SI one noted here are attempts to enrich Nature Conservancy by separating naive people from their money. Save your money and donate it to local environmental organizations that you can participate in yourself and see the effectiveness of your donations!

Matt Love
2/13/2012 2:58:37 PM
I wish I would have thought of the environmental angle when I wrote "Surf Crazy Cindy" with Australia's greatest rock band, The EPs. Much of the vid was shot on the gulf coast in Alabama, and across the blue expanse of the gulf, on the horizon were countless oil drilling platforms. It was quite dramatic and disturbing. I think if I had a Nature Conservancy endorcement for this vid, it might push views upwards of 40 or even 50! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmpzYZKEuTM



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