Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Buying Nature

February 11th, 2017 | Posted by Barbara Lynn Weaver in Uncategorized

Buying Nature

When I was in elementary school, my mom topped off each bag lunch with a plastic water bottle. Only used once. When the clay soil in my backyard wasn’t conducive to plant growth, I bought better soil from the plant nursery. It came in a plastic bag. When my friend sent me a picture from her college, it was of the oxygen bar that just opened on her campus. She paid money to breathe ‘better’ air. While these experiences are my own, they are not unique. As Wanuri Kahiu said, “I am not so unique that my story is relevant only to myself.” The bottling and purchasing of natural resources happens worldwide.

In her TEDx Talk, Kahiu, who directed Pumzi, said that she thinks the idea of bottling nature and selling it for profit is ridiculous. She asked, “where does the idea of buying natural things end?” And her question is a difficult one, because the short term answers are very different from the long term ones. For short term end points, bottled water is convenient, bagged soil creates life, and canned air is entertaining. Natural resources under this mindset are continuously consumed and thrown away, without regard to the effects and ethics that the distribution of these products can have in the long run.

Regarding the long term, buying natural things can end in instability and poverty for entire nations of people, as depicted by the Nigerian oil conflicts in Oil on Water. The sequestration of nature can also have psychological repercussions, like the plaguing paranoia that the nature we take advantage of will one-day cease to exist, and take us with it, as exhibited in The Petrol Pump. Kahiu, through Pumzi, presents perhaps the bleakest long term outcome of them all: the eradication of hope.

My personal experiences buying nature are not unique, and neither are the experiences of the millions of people who have to face the long term repercussions, like those mentioned above, daily. Their stories are not so unique that they are relevant only to themselves. Buying natural things does not end at the checkout counter; it ricochets around in the lives of others around the world.



Kahiu, Wanuri. “No More Labels.” TEDx Talks. Feb 4 2014. Web. Feb 8 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4–BIlZE_78

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