Randal De Souza
If you were walking through the Student Centre on the afternoon of Oct. 19, you might have caught a glimpse of a three-minute flash mob. Standing frozen from 12:25 to 12:28 p.m., the participants were there to support OPIRG working group Just $top. The group’s mission is to raise public awareness of our role in an environmentally destructive consumer society. In the following interview, Just $top founders Twishna Patel and Dhanisha Patel describe the group’s purposes, methods and plans for the future.
Randal De Souza: So, tell me about the inspiration behind starting Just $top!
Twishna Patel: Well, last year we both came across the celebrated video “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard, the noted critic of excessive consumerism. Briefly, the documentary emphasized the steps leading to environmental oppression, specifically the overexploitation of natural resources that leads to the mass production and widespread distribution of consumer items. This purely capitalistic system, out to make money, has no regard for our very own health, let alone that of the environment.
People are seen as consumers, not individuals, by big corporations when they crank out products that damage our world and our health. They see us with the cash required to consume. This need for awareness and for informed individuals motivated our desire to start Just $top!
RD: Would you be able to explain more about your involvement with OPIRG McMaster as a working group?
Dhanisha Patel: OPIRG McMaster is a chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, which is a not-for-profit organization that is both student-funded and directed and works on issues of human rights, the environment and social justice.
We thought it would be the perfect solution for reaching out to the community, so we applied for working group status last year and received it.
A working group is composed of students associated with a unique cause, and it uses consensus decision-making and anti-oppression principles.
We believed we could successfully raise awareness about the dangers of mass consumption, specifically the way the media oppresses the environment by encouraging our appetite for consumption.
RD: So how does Just $top! aspire to meet its goal of raising awareness?
TP: As the name suggests, you need to “stop what you’re doing and think about it”. How does it affect you? How does it affect the world around you? Be an informed citizen.
The first step is self-awareness, and the second is to reach out to the people around you and educate them – this means your family and friends.
Finally reach out to strangers and tell them about your mission – this is where we currently are with Just $top!, where we involve the public in our activities. We recently held an event known as the “Flash Mob @ Mac”, where we managed to engage the McMaster community in a fun, practical way. We prefer this method in contrast to overwhelming people with facts and hoping they make something out of it.
RD: Do you have any future direction for your working group?
DP: We intend for many, many fun events to get people thinking. Stay tuned for a screening of “The Story of Stuff” in the MUSC Atrium. We encourage people to come speak with us, and our events are an incentive to do so – we don’t require lots of your time, as our message is focused on increased awareness and consciousness.
Our events are cost efficient – we have actually spent $0 this year. While not asking you to spend $0 in your life, we realize there are things you do need, but our emphasis is on asking you to consider your impact on the environment. Do you really need to shop till you drop?