MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations
The Cost of Cool: Youth, Consumption & the Environment
Hosted by Alexandra Paul, produced by Population
San Francisco, CA: The Video Project
26 minutes, 2001, $95.00 institutions, $34.95 home use

When one looks at today's youth, one sees a generation characterized by materialism. Satisfaction seems like a foreign word to most of American teenagers, as they appear to not get enough with what they have. Commercials, print ads and all other forms of advertisement seems to be at work as youth in the United States' spend up to 300 times more than their counterparts in countries like Laos and Uganda. This is not surprising to hear since American youth are part of a country that shares 5% of the population but 25% of the world's consumption.

The Cost of Cool: Youth, Consumption & the Environment presents what it takes for teenagers to be "cool," and the punishment the Earth has to take for this pursuit of "coolness: The video presents a number of teenagers who explain and analyze their various spending patterns. The teenagers examine their own buying patterns and recognize that they don't really need much of what they buy. The Cost of Cool traces this consumption trend, and how media and advertising has targeted the American child from when s/he was still a toddler to be the next potential consumer. So by the time they become teenagers, they have been molded into the capitalist's "dream customer" as they respond well to trends and advertisements.

Though the teens in the video recognize that they will not be Michael Jordan when they purchase his shoes, they admit that they do have to buy certain products to get accepted by their crowd, to be "cool." They also recognized the superficiality of their society's conception of "coolness" and see materialism as a hurdle they are trying to overcome.

The Cost of Cool follows the production path of a common teenager purchase, a T-shirt. It begins with the cotton farm where the cotton for the T-shirt comes from, as well as all the water, pesticides, chemicals and even the plastic bag involved in the making and purchasing of the T-shirt. It shows all the elements needed and the damages brought about by production of these commodities. The video also points out that the damage to the environment produced by production increases due to the Earth's growing population of 6 billion.

This less than half an hour video is a useful tool in educating today's teen about how over--consumption creates a great deal of environmental degradation in our Earth's ever--growing population. Though it could have gone more into detail on the various global impacts of production, consumption and wastes, it nevertheless creates awareness and may possibly impact teenage viewers as well as adults' consumption patterns. This is definitely visible in how the video does not recommend drastic cutting down in purchasing, but instead gives the lingering message of "getting along with less:"

- Maria Aliza Laghab

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"As we see all around us, racism and racial discrimination continue unabated. Although we refer to our world as a global village, it is a world sadly lacking in the sense of closeness towards neighbour and community which the word village implies. In each region, and within all countries, there are problems stemming from either a lack of respect for, or lack of acceptance of, the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. Our world is witness to serious ethnic conflicts; to discrimination against minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants workers; the accusation of institutionalized racism in police forces; harsh immigration and asylum policies; hate sites on the Internet and youth groups promoting intolerance and xenophobia."
– Mary Robinson,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
24 March 1999

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