time flies when youre born to shop

A year has passed since I began my weekly rage against big business and mass consumerism in this space.

A year has passed since I began my weekly rage against big business and mass consumerism in this space.

And what a year it has been — full of personal shopping successes and failures, both of which have helped me better understand corporate behaviour, as well as consumer behaviour, particularly my own.

This has also been a landmark year for China.

On the eve of its Big Moment hosting the 2008 Olympics, we saw the world’s top exporter take it in the chin for toys it manufactured using toxic lead paint and the suicide of a Chinese toy factory manager who worked for one of the guilty companies, Mattel.

No thanks to me, even though I wrote regularly about China’s sinister regime, and not at all because the Chinese people are being treated savagely there, consumers are finally beginning to boycott Chinese goods en masse.

As journalist Upton Sinclair discovered, when something begins to affect people, that’s when they start demanding reforms.

Though not always.

Here in Whitehorse, a boycott against the 2008 China Olympics is growing and hopefully that will extend to a boycott of the made-in-China brand, a resolution that is increasingly difficult for people to keep as more and more Canadian companies out-source their manufacturing to that country.

And here, as well many other cities, people are adopting a “100-mile diet.”

This is a one-vote approach with mass appeal: while supporting local growers, a single person can help reduce the trend towards monocrops, reduce the devastation caused by large-scale farming, and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from an apple’s lengthy pilgrimage from Mexico to Whitehorse.

People, like Anne Saunders of Dawson City, are taking charge by giving up meat and dairy.

She decided to do this after reading about the book The China Study, which I wrote about here.

Her veganism precipitated by my column has humbled me. But I can’t take all the credit. I also gave up meat after reading The China Study. The book’s conclusion about animal protein and cancer is just that powerful.

Suat Tuzlak, the owner of Alpine Bakery, loaned me the book, and so without him, neither Saunders nor I would have been so inspired to change our lives.

Another Born to Shop article, inspired by a reader’s tip, caused SAAN to remove a scandalous T-shirt aimed at young girls from shelves across Canada.

These events exemplify the extent to which a discourse about what we buy and where we buy it can make a difference.

I am privileged to know people who have been having this discussion for a lot longer than me, like the growers of organic foods, the cooks and bakers of organic and fair-trade ingredients, environmentalists, fair trade coffee suppliers, and those who read the labels on clothing and other products and who buy conscientiously.

Whether a blessing or a curse, Born to Shop has increased my drive to be a better consumer.

As the author, I can no longer escape the issues that surround shopping because I research and write about them so often.

But also, because people read this column (theoretically), I am held accountable (read: I can no longer sneak into Wal-Mart for toilet paper).

I have found that being a good shopper can be an extraordinarily burden. It is time-consuming and inconvenient. It can make you feel confrontational, judgmental and self-righteous.

It always involves more work than being oblivious to what’s in your shopping bag. In short, it can make life downright stressful at times.

It is also more expensive, which is why it is easy to dismiss ethical shopping — which would entail eating locally and organically and buying locally-made and ethically-made products — as a middleclass endeavour.

It is indeed a middleclass endeavour!

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Getting governments involved in making ethical choices on behalf of all of its citizens will go a long way towards universalizing good labour practices and sustainable food practices.

We have seen governments around the globe do this.

They have refused to allow the privatization of water and health-care services.

Schools have introduced healthy, organic foods into their cafeterias, and government buildings have introduced fair-trade coffees.

A few cities have taken charge of their jurisdictions by banning disposable diapers from their landfills; many more offer weekly compost and recycling pick-ups.

In my mind, getting our governments involved is our best, and maybe our last, chance to save the world from this epidemic of consumption.

Forget the “one-vote” system, it’ll just take too long.

On the other hand, taking charge of one’s shopping impulses is empowering to say the least.

Choosing to buy locally from people that you inevitably get to know reinforces community.

And being more choosy about the clothing and household goods that you buy only makes you more creative, though you do risk making yourself more individual and, as a result, eccentric.

And it is effective.

The more people who exercise their right to “vote” through their shopping choices, the more likely corporations will start reflecting those choices in their products.

Even Wal-Mart and Starbucks are jumping on the organic and fair-trade bandwagons.

But these are baby steps.

Entire countries, including all of their land and their people — parents and children alike, are being sacrificed for the sake of First World opulence.

One might even say that we have peace here in the West because our poor can indulge in shopping.

I have been told that my column’s name, Born to Shop, should be changed because it sounds frivolous. I meant it to be ironic, but it is also the best way I can describe who we are as humans in the current global system.

‘Shop’ is what the governments of the world want us to do — not only at stores, but through tourism and sport, through the consumption of movies and television, at restaurants and in beauty salons.

Through shopping, we maintain the status quo.

Stop shopping, or change our shopping habits, and the machine breaks down.

Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

Most Read