Christina Riley gives her take on the environment, politics and 2018’s most controversial christmas ad 

The increasing problem within today’s politics is the lack of information given to the people – the voters, consumers and accomplices in our planet’s destruction. The current issues occurring in Britain as a result of the 2016 EU Referendum, is largely due to a lack of preparation for what this may entail, and a lacklustre promise that somehow this could actually work. Decisions such as Britain’s Brexit vote and support for President Trump’s ‘wall’, are largely based on a purely racist precedent against immigration. Despite backing for reasons such as employment prospects and the 3.8% unemployment rate (the lowest in 18 years), his government incites social, gender and the racial issues, most recently in the appointment of Judge Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Many UK citizens have decided to back the sentiments of Nigel Farage, who in recent years used the image of a line of refugees and migrants as Brexit propaganda, with the the slogan: “We must break free of the EU and take back control.” In this current political climate, when key world players are trying to refuse the free-flow of immigrants in attempts to ‘safeguard’ their homes from outsiders, why are they supporting the ever expanding penetration of environmental borders, of the wider home of our earth? Why are they then inclined to invade where they are unwelcome, destroying others’ homes through fracking, deforestation and development? Iceland’s 2018 promotional video presented a challenge to these issues, and reached a wider audience who were unaware as to the just how instrumental their weekly shopping is to the wider world.

The extraction of natural resources such as palm oil are not derived from necessity, but a capitalist exploitation of cheap profit. To convey this sentiment, supermarket brand Iceland collaborated with environmental organization Greenpeace to create an emotionally moving animation which showed the effects of consumerism on the natural world. The TV advertisement was to air during the winter season, as the demands of Christmas consumer culture traditionally inflates commerce. As a result of this, our environment suffers from the likes of deforestation for our food and our shampoo, as pointed out by Rang-tan’s story. This message, which is dedicated to the 25 orangutans that die every day, sees the corporate brand removing palm oil from their own brand products in late efforts to save the species from extinction. But Clearcast did not approve the advert under political pretences as it does not comply with current legislation.

Greenpeace’s association with the clip renders the advert as serving political motives, while not being explicitly labelled as such, which Clearcast pointed out to be in conflict with the regulations they abide by. In watching the advert, its political nature cannot be denied. However, it is in labelling environmental issues as inherently ‘political’ that has caused controversy and outcry against the ban that would have been likely to ensue, had Iceland taken this to the Advertising Standards Agency. The preservation of the environment being categorised as political, and therefore debatable, highlights a problem that pervades world thinking, in that it is too much invested in the now and the near future: our own life span. The rationality of issues such as global warming, extinction, deforestation and rising water levels, to name but a few, sees us suspended in a temporary state of psychosis, the reality of which will be realised too late. And too late is fast approaching.

Approved promotions such as John Lewis’ yearly anticipated Christmas sketch and the myriad of its commercial competitors consistently pull at the heartstrings of its viewers, inducing lighthearted tones. Amidst the wholesome animal adventures of John Lewis’ advertisements, it is important to be reminded that our material culture which packs our homes full of gifts, wrappings, and endless supplies of plastic and cardboard to be thrown into overflowing wheelie-bins, is largely unnecessarily decadent and egregious. The parody of Christmas stuffing is driven to excess, and as a consequence, the homes of species such as the orangutan are destroyed; habitat loss being one of the main contributors to animal extinction. Iceland incorporated world issues into their story of Rang-tan, using their platform to incite change and environmental protection instead of the relentless images of puddings, toys and tinsel. They forced us to confront our own superficiality, materialism and carelessness, and for that they should be commended, not silenced.

The upsurge in common knowledge of palm oil has led to the proliferation of images of orangutans on social media, however it’s not just the orangutan and Bornean orangutan that are critically endangered. According to the World Wildlife Fund, a further sixteen species comprise this list, and another twenty-nine are endangered. Thus, in the production of media advertisements, environmental activists should not be penalised to prioritise capitalist agenda and the almost 1 million signatures Rang-tan’s petition has accumulated clearly conceptualises this. The time for action has long surpassed, and with increasing demands for sustainable product and development, it is clear the awareness of the population is coming to a climatic level. The nation’s frustration is indicative of our care for the preservation of our world and our discontent with its issues being suffocated from a plethora of capitalist propaganda. While the anger regarding the suppression of Iceland’s advertisement may be misdirected, it highlights that changes should be made to legislation to ensure messages such as these are not hidden from the public eye. Hiding behind lists of chemical jargon, the majority of consumers do not what goes into the makeup of our products, and are therefore unaware to our complicity in the destruction of the environment. Why shouldn’t we be informed about the ramifications of our actions and purchases on our home? When did the safety of the planet, its wildlife and the human race become political? And perhaps most importantly, what led our decision-makers to economise on our planet’s destruction? It’s time the earth was prioritised over a quick buck. It is time for our products to be labelled not as sustainable, but unsustainable. And it’s time for politicians to see the protection of the environment not as choice, but law.