Friday, January 25, 2008

Inverted quarantine

"After some reflection, I decided to call this kind of response to environmental awareness "inverted quarantine." In traditional quarantine, infected individuals are confined, separated from the rest of the community, which is still healthy. But here, in the case of bottled water, organic foods, etc., the dyadic opposition at the heart of the logic of traditional quarantine — diseased individual/healthy community — is inverted. The dyadic opposition is now: diseased conditions/healthy individuals. The environment is toxic, illness inducing. The threat is not discrete, is not just here or there, not just these persons and not others, so it's not possible to separate off the threat, to contain it, quarantine it. Danger is everywhere. How are healthy individuals to protect themselves? They can do so only by isolating themselves from their disease-inducing surroundings, by erecting some sort of barrier or enclosure and withdrawing behind it or inside it. Hence, inverted quarantine.

Billions of gallons of bottled water; water filters in millions of homes; organic-food consumption growing 20 percent a year; organic food on sale at Wal-Mart. The inverted-quarantine response to toxics in our environment is now a mainstream, mass phenomenon.

Just because something is a mass phenomenon, though, doesn't mean it is important or warrants concern. So what if we see individualistic, consumeristic behavior in response to environmental threat? Isn't that just what we would expect in a culture that emphasizes individual responsibility and equates consumption with the good life?

Here is why we should be concerned, in fact alarmed: Inverted-quarantine products do not work nearly well enough to actually protect those who put their faith in them. But consumers believe they work. That belief, in turn, tends to decrease our collective will to truly confront serious environmental issues." (Thanks D)

Very interesting article by Andrew Szsaz in the CHE. To read all

No comments: