Jerry Mander is right: images from television, and particularly advertising, do dominate our minds to a dangerous degree. But banning or otherwise suppressing this form of expression isn't a true solution, any more than pouring herbicide on your yard to get rid of weeds is a true solution. Whether the landscape is your yard or your mind, we permaculture designers would say that the solution lies in introducing beneficial relationships.
How to address the dominance of TV in our mental landscape:
1. Fortify our own critical thinking (and that of our kids). Permaculture education is good for this. Just plain talking to kids, giving them our full attention, is good for this.
2. Find better things to do than watch TV. Yes, this requires effort. And yes, WE everyday folks — parents and citizens — are the ones responsible for making this effort. We can't blame the advertisers for hijacking our retinas if we willingly lend them our eyeballs several hours a day.
3. Make more use of widely available, powerful tools for spreading the ideas WE want to spread.
As Jerry Mander points out in his article, all advertising is about getting someone else to do what you want. We don't have to limit this to advertising. Everyday, people on Facebook are persuading people to become more eco-conscious by posting images of luscious food forests; enchanting cob cottages; futuristic bright-green eco-cities; sassy micro trailer homes pulled by bicycle, as well as by posting calls for action that are accompanied by a powerful visual image. (A petition accompanied by a soul-wrenching image of trees lined up like matchsticks, cleared for the tar sands pipeline project.)
Decades ago legendary media critic A.J. Liebling said "Freedom of the press is only guaranteed to those who own one". But now, to a degree unprecedented in history, we everyday people DO own free press just as the big guys do. We have access to high-quality multimedia publishing tools that are essentially free to anyone with access to an internet connection.
How many of us have really taken advantage of what's available? How many of us have made a video and put it out there? Did you know that anyone can set up their own YouTube channel? Facebook and YouTube are particularly powerful tools. If you prefer strictly audio, that's easy too. Shoot, you can even make a recording on your phone and post it to your blog as an mp3 file! How many of us have written an e-book? (for a little homemade e-book inspiration, see the work of Hayley Harland)
How many of us even bother to really make use of the various listserves and other email groups we're on? Back in the days of the early printing presses, and even 15 years ago, folks would've killed for the amount of reach that we have now.
Of course, visuals are particularly powerful. If you doubt this, visit the Facebook page of an ex-lover whose slights still linger in your heart. Ouch! The mere 2-D static image of the person sears your eyeballs and feels like a punch in the gut. Lots of power there.
Might as well use that power for good! Why not warm people's retinas with images of permaculture positivity! As Marjory Wildcraft is doing with her YouTube channel. And as Ginger Webb is doing with her herbal "Medicinal Minutes".
Some would argue that the mass advertisers have an unfair advantage because they reach so many millions. But their main province is the undefined masses. Advertisers spend a lot of money to buy their way into tribe audiences, but more people can spot a fake than you might think. We, everyday people, are already members of those tribes.
Also in our favour is that we, ordinary people, have good on our side. We're not trying to manipulate folks into buying unnecessary consumer products. Rather, we (conscious citizens) are trying to influence people to take more responsibility for the planet. And we're offering them appealing ways to do so.
Use the power that's available to you. Talk to your tribe! Everyone has a tribe or tribes. The people who are ready and willing to listen to your ideas, and to take action. For more about connecting authentically with one's own tribe(s), and getting out there and making things happen, Seth Godin is a great inspiration. Did I say inspiration? I meant a much-needed kick in the pants!
Sometimes the tribes turn out to be quite big. Check out Dick Pierce's video on how to build a herb spiral. The 6-minute video, taken in 2008 at a Permaculture Design Certificate course in Austin TX, has had, get this, over 50,000 viewings! Now that's what I call reach!
Yes, TV is powerful. Don't worry too much about it, though. We should focus more on using the unbelievable amount of communication power we ourselves have close at hand. Most of us haven't even begun to tap into that.
Jenny Nazak is a permaculture designer and educator based in Ormond Beach, Florida. For more information, to contact Jenny or to view her artworks, visit jennynazak.wordpress.com
At Permaculture magazine, we are commited to changing the way we use media for the power of good. For more inspiration, please visit out facebook, twitter and pinterest pages.
Photo credits: treehugger.com, vonholsteingroup.com, ecocitybuilder.org