• silwance

all that glitters

I woke up to environmental stories so contrasting, I want to tear my hair out.

One was an article from Parents magazine about glitter. Scientists worldwide want to ban it because it harms marine life. Glitter, like microbeads (which have been banned in the UK), is mistaken for food and eventually impacts ecosystems and the food chain. I found this phrase bothersome:

these particles are now being found in seafood meant for human consumption.

There is no such thing as ‘seafood meant for human consumption.’ There aren’t species named seafood swimming around waiting to be consumed by humans. Nope, they don’t exist, aren’t meant for, our consumption; they’re just living their own lives and we happen to find them tasty. Just as you and I exist for our own reasons and are not meant to be landfood for lions.

But that phrase wasn’t as bothersome as this passage:

not all hope is lost for the glitter obsessed. BBC reports that eco-glitter, made from eucalyptus tree extract and aluminum is the latest groundbreaking alternative to the highly popular microplastic.

Thank goodness for science. Now we have eco-glitter. Double thank goodness koalas are functionally extinct because they won’t need eucalyptus and we can use it for glitter. Indeed, all hope is not lost.

Most bothersome was this:

By avoiding products that maintain microbeads and replacing your classic glitter with its biodegradable counterpart, you can take pride in making a better world for your kids to grow up in.

Classic glitter? So many things wrong here. One, aluminum is not biodegradable. Two, replacing one product from extractive capitalism with another product from extractive capitalism is not a solution. Banning glitter and microbeads entirely would be a solution. Three, replacing one unnecessary thing with another unnecessary thing isn’t something to take pride in. Four, if you are taking pride in glitter, it won’t make the world a better place; it'll just make you feel better. Not the same thing at all. Five, to couple eco-glitter with making a better world, is unethical rubbish.

Do I sound angry? I am heartbroken; it sometimes comes out as anger. Is it the same with you?

I am heartbroken because the next environmental story I read was about two indigenous chiefs in Brazil, Firmino Prexede Guajajara and Raimundo Guajajara, murdered advocating for indigenous rights against a utilities company. Last month in Brazil, forest guardian, Paulo Paulino Guajajara, was murdered by loggers. Last week, I read about Honduras being an increasingly lethal country for indigenous defenders. But imports from Honduras to America are on the rise. I am heartbroken people worldwide are murdered defending their habitats and cultures from extractive capitalism.

Meanwhile in America, we are peddling a narrative that if we switch out bad glitter, to protect ‘our seafood,' with good glitter, our fairy princess daughters can be a part of the solution without compromising on the fun.

Don’t get me started with the embedded patriarchy in the fairy princess daughters reference—not the point of this essay.

Is Parents magazine indicative of what the majority of Americans believe is proper orientation to the earth, its inhabitants and what doing their part looks like?

If so, it is a fiction borne from the masterful disassociation extractive capitalism affords those in the global north from everywhere and everyone else. It is a fiction to believe eco-friendly glitter is doing one's part while others around the world risk death. To be entitled to fun is also a fiction.

The disassociation, eco-glitter, entitlement to fun: all functions of supremacy. Eco-glitter is science in the service of privilege.


We must understand the geopolitical legacy of supremacy that has scaffolded the global north on the backs of the global south. Environmentalists of the global north must dismantle privilege within ourselves and within the environmental movement if we are serious about ensuring a habitable planet for all beings.

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