Toxic masculinities are preventing men from engaging with environmentally sustainable behaviours. This phenomenon is creating a gendered eco gap, fuelled by the avoidance of behaviours perceived to be green in order to escape emasculation. Inspired by the actions/inactions of our political leaders, ‘Toxic’ visually explores the ways in which these archaic masculinities interact with climate change and consumption. The protagonist is the embodiment of the elite toxic male – the fabricator of doubt, the right wing-neoliberalist, the demographic monetising the next generation’s existence.
1 & 2: 'Meathead 1 & 2'
This part of the series visually explores the link between masculinity and meat. In western economies beef consumption needs to fall by 90% to keep temperature rise within 2C by 2050. UK citizens ‘bringing home the bacon’ will need to eat nine times less pork.
3. 'The Male Trail'
Inspired by research into waste management which revealed that males in western economies are statistically more likely to litter, leave a larger carbon footprint and less likely to recycle than females.
Analysis suggests that this behaviour stems from the belief that being environmentally conscious is a feminine trait, and thus being a 'wasteman' safeguards an alleged sense of masculinity. Research has also found that males are equally likely to avoid green practices in public and private, suggesting males are more concerned about the preservation of their own self-perception of masculinity than being environmentally conscious.
4. 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind'
Inspired by the escalating problem of illegal plastic waste exports.
When you pop packaging into the recycling bin, it is actually recycled right?… Unfortunately it’s not that simple. The UK exports around twice as much plastic packaging for recycling as it processes domestically - 691,993 tonnes in 2019.
Where is it going? Many businesses that identify as recycling businesses actually only sort waste and then sell it on, via brokers, towards undetermined and ill prepared destinations. Until 2018, China imported most of the world’s plastic waste. When they closed their ports to plastic imports, western economies passed the problem onto unprepared Asian nations – primarily Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Turkey.
These nations do not have the infrastructure, regulation, and capacity to safely handle their own waste in a socially and environmentally responsible way, let alone vast amounts of plastics from the richest nations of the world. Unable to deal with the quantity, much of the waste isn’t properly processed. Instead the plastics are abandoned at illegal dumpsites, where it is burnt at the roadside or ultimately left to pollute previously beautiful environments.
With these nations beginning to recognize the perilous health and environmental risks, the burden must eventually be passed again. ‘The American Chemistry Council’ an American lobby group representing oil and chemical companies - is now lobbying the Trump administration for the export of plastic waste to Kenya. Where does it end?
5. 'Follow The Money'
The network of climate science denial continues to corrupt and influence policy through complex monetary donations and the spread of misinformation. This network consists of polluters, front organisations, and politicians benefiting from a delay in effective action.
One of these organisations in the UK is the ‘Global Warming Policy Forum’ (GWPF); a deregulatory think tank founded by Lord Lawson – an active climate change denier with no professional credentials in climate science, but a heck load of experience and connections in big oil. The GWPF has been financially linked to a wealth of generous ‘donations’ to Tory MPs, with Bojo accepting a generous ‘donation’ in the most recent leadership campaign.
6. 'The Greenwasher'
Greenwashing is the creation of commercial and political propaganda that broadcasts an environmentally conscious public image, rather than actually implementing change that minimises environmental impact. With the climate crisis entering the mainstream consumer conscience, progressively more toxic companies and politicians are scrubbing themselves green. Unregulated carbon offsets, falsified political promises, and fake labels such as ‘sustainable palm oil’ are designed to cloud consumer judgement and delay effective action.