Sebastian Copeland

Is American culture inherently wasteful?

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Americans, Copeland says, have become complacement.

Sebastian Copeland

Sebastian Copeland is a photographer and environmental activist. Copeland grew up in France and Britain, and graduated from UCLA in 1987 with a major in film. Throughout the 1990’s, Copeland directed commercials – everything from soft drinks to sportswear – as well as music videos. He is also known for his celebrity portraiture; he’s taken pictures of Sandra Bullock, Kate Bosworth, and Orlando Bloom (who is also his cousin), among others. In recent years, Copeland has focused on environmental activism. He serves on the Board of Directors of Global Green USA and recently published Antarctica: The Global Warning


Question: Is American culture inherently wasteful?

Copeland: Well I wouldn’t say that American culture is uniquely inherently wasteful. I would say that an industrial and a developing society is inherently wasteful. I think that the minute we depart from a sustainable and holistic culture or cultural attitude, we . . . and we progress towards an attitude of development, there has been, it would seem, a necessary stage of wastefulness – one which again defines an immaturity with respect to that particular stage. America has thrived through the age of industry, and through the industrial revolution better than most other societies; and has expended with a wealth of potential in a very vast land, and a very wealthy land, and a seeming sense that we are unaccountable to it. In other words it’s a lot easier to be conscious of your surroundings if you live in a limited space than if you do in an expensive space. Because if you live in an expensive environment, there’s always a sense that if you pollute it you can always move to another place and nobody will see it. So the pioneering spirit of . . . of America has not been so conducive to giving Americans a sense of responsibility. But America in many ways represents the best potential, and has represented a tremendous potential for growth, at least through this . . . up until this stage that we are now. Unfortunately I think as we see with any civilizations, any societies, and any cultures – given too much power, that power tends to corrupt and ultimately tends to make people complacent, because invariably wealth generates greed and complacence. And I think America has been tremendous in its creativity and its ability to advance all sorts of technologies and all modes of communication, and advancement in science and whatnot. But I also feel that in succeeding in, you know, the end of the Cold War; and in being sort of heralded economically; and as a power nation a position of supremacy, I think that America has become complacent. Recorded on: 12/3/07