Imperialistic sustainability

Diego Garcia

Like a lot of what we have covered in this class so far, as well as much of Entrepreneurial Studies, Kristofer Lofgren’s Bamboo Sushi’s support of a fish bank smells like Exotification Marketing.  One of Exotification Marketing’s biggest pitfalls is its inability to develop wholly positive feedback loops.  Where business models such as Speak Shop and Guyaki purport to offer environmental and social benefits alongside the product or service, they are only utilizing the appearance of those benefits.  Speak Shop, rather than hiring tutors in Guatemala to teach middle class Americans Spanish, should be hiring local second generation young Latinos who may be at a higher risk for unemployment.  They have been translating for and tutoring their parents in a second language as they learned English.  I am skeptical that Guyaki’s purported rainforest saving scheme and potential Mate’ plantations in the United States really only end up benefiting the two hippy kids who started the company.  They trick consumers with images of faraway lands in peril to purchase their product, pandering to their customers white guilt.

Bamboo Sushi is about to officially buy their first marine protected area. It will be 100 square kilometers, about 405,000 acres, in the Bahamas. Planning for the second one, closer to home in the Pacific Northwest, is already underway.

This is where I end up with Bamboo Sushi’s grand plan to fund the protection of tracts of ocean.  First of all, how is it sustainable, or even reasonable, for an American company to regulate the marine ecosystem’s surrounding the Bahamas.  Alex Goldmark’s article starts out, “In a year, we will go through 4,000 pounds of albacore, 5,500 of salmon, 3,500 pounds of tuna…” Kristofor Lofgren’s busy sushi restaurant uses incredible amounts of fish., well kind of, Albacore is a tuna and therefore I am unsure what exactly that means tuna is.  Salmon do not live in the Bahamas.  They need the cool waters of the Northern Pacific and Northern Atlantic.  They are found other places globally, but only in cool waters such as Southern Australia and Northern Europe.  Not in the Bahamas.  This is where I got really confused.  If Bamboo Sushi is preparing to invest in a Marine Protected Area why isn’t it located where their product is sourced?

“We are going to take a portion of every dollar spent at Bamboo Sushi, and work with the Nature Conservancy, WWF, Monterey Bay Aquarium… [and others] to buy those areas of ocean, turning them into ‘fish banks’ for research.”

I am really unclear on what this means.  Superficially, this sounds great.  Areas of the ocean will be set aside and human exploitation will be regulated.  There are outstanding examples of success from implementing a Marine Protected Area.  The Phoenix Islands Protected Area may be one of the last untouched reef systems in the world.  As with so many domestic and international efforts to preserve ecosystems the compromise often ends up watering down the goals of these efforts until paper is all that’s left.  Amongst the US State Department cables released by Wikileaks there is evidence of an MPA being used to promote neo-imperialism to protect US and British military interests on the Chagros Islands in the Indian Ocean.

This cable discloses how in spite of the claims of their proponents that “marine protected areas” are designed to “protect” the ocean fisheries and ecosystem, they are in fact often used as racist tools to dispossess indigenous people of their human rights. The move by the British and U.S. governments to green wash their imperialist policies by depriving the Chagrossians their rights has a direct parallel to the violation of indigenous rights that have occurred in the creation of marine protected areas in the U.S and Mexico.   indybay

There are too many uncertainties surrounding Marine Protected Areas, too many opportunities for an MPA to be used as a neo-imperial tool. There are too many grey areas such as spill over, the movement of species through an MPA. The MPA that Bamboo Sushi is trying to help fund is about twice the size of Hillsboro, Oregon or .000000277% of the worlds oceans.

The implementation of this Exotification Marketing again falls short of its stated goals.  Rather than using your spending power as a way to exercise agency within the Wicked Problems we are faced with, a consumer ends up being pimped by a restaurant like Bamboo Sushi.  Kristofor Lofgren’s heart might be in the right place but part of me hopes he hasn’t bamboozled himself with the aspects of his business and marketing strategies that seem to be designed to pander to some sort of emotional response to environmental degradation.  If, like me, you have a fairly constant craving for sushi put your money where your mouth is, not where you think your heart may be.

Is anyone else concerned that the slow food videos were sponsored by BP?

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2 thoughts on “Imperialistic sustainability

  1. wcrueck says:

    A comment on language usage:
    You used the suffix “ification” with the tern exoticification to piggyback on last weeks conversations about heroification and I love the usage but part of me wonders if making up words for academic purposes too excessively will diminish the potency of the act. Isn’t that one of the paradigms that both you and I gripe about on a daily basis? By abusing or indulging in appropriating terms to make a point are we not acting similar to offenders who misappropriate words like “sustainability” and “craft”? I write this critique of your work at the same time as making my own blog post entitled “Celebritizing Goodness” so admittedly I am equally as guilty. Maybe we are just as capitalistic as our enemies for indulging in exploiting language, but if so. . . I am glad we are on the same team.

  2. jodyvdunphy says:

    Jacob, I knew you were going to say that. Do you have a wikipedia page for Exotification Marketing? If you don’t you should make one and have the tagging the shark thing that Bamboo Sushi is sponsoring to be the #1 example of it.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful critique-nice research. For me though, if you are going to eat sushi anyway, you might as well give your money to a place that is going to put some back into the protection of the ocean habitat. (Or, just not eat it at all. I think the best cure for all of these wicked problems is a localized, mostly vegetarian diet.) People are going to do what they do anyway, so why not take some expendable income from the well-off and channel it to protecting habitats. But really this question of buying part of the ocean for preserving it is exacerbating an ecologically destructive consciousness. But, nothing is perfect we have to start somewhere. Right? Where do we start Jacob?

    Oh and I did NOT notice that the Slow Food videos were sponsored by BP. Pretty disappointing. What’s up with that? Greenwashing????

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