And for more of the back story, please download the exhibition catalogue.
The exhibition told the story of what is currently being done to tackle consumer demand, trigger a behaviour change in the key consumer group and reduce rhino poaching. While this is an important start, we need to look to the root causes of destructive pseudo-luxury (both illegal and legal) market. These are discussed in Nature Needs More’s symposium presentation titled: Reinventing Magnificence: Status from Contribution.
In our current society what we buy defines us. Social status, self-identity, social differentiation and self-worth are today linked to consumption. This addiction to consumption for status and self-worth gain has in recent years been termed affluenza. There is nothing rational about being addicted to buying, yet this is not an individual disease; it is a manufactured affliction. We have just forgotten (or never experienced) what the world was like without being bombarded by thousands of adverts every day. Currently, in the Western world, opting out of this consumption addiction requires both a secure identity and massive willpower to NOT conform.
During interviews with consumers of illegal wildlife, it became apparent that an evolution occurred in their consumer behaviour. Once they had purchased more mainstream legal manufactured luxuries, they evolved to legal rare luxury products, often associated with endangered species. For example, many people would be surprised to find out it is legal to have a car interior upholstered in elephant skin and a range of rare, exotic leather.
While consumers must take responsibility for the consequences of their purchasing behaviour, business practices, marketing and media play their part and must be interrogated.