Listeners comment on 'Consumed'

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TEXT OF LETTERS

KAI RYSSDAL: We spent most of last week talking with you about the consumer economy, whether or not our buying habits are sustainable. We started "Consumed" a week ago Friday, with an interview I did with Jared Diamond from UCLA. We chose him because of his book "Collapse," about how and why some societies make it, and others don't. In our talk he pointed out that strained natural resources helped push Rwanda to the point of genocide.

Environmental policy grad student Joel Larson of Minneapolis heard that and thought we were being a tad simplistic.

JOEL LARSON: Blaming it solely on environmental security prevents a complete understanding so that those of us that care about preventing these events, if we don't understand them completely, we won't be able to help prevent them in the future.

Being green, like much in life, is complicated.

Some of you wrote to object to our coverage of a certain company and its boss who's "going green" -- both as the color of the environment and the color of money.

LEE SCOTT: Yeah it's not an altruistic endeavor.

That was Walmart CEO Lee Scott there. We spent part of last Friday with him in Bentonville talking about the company's plans to mass-market green.

John Townsley of Okanogan, Washington said we left out the not-so-green impacts of Wal-Mart's mass-manufacturing, on the rest of the world.

JOHN TOWNSLEY: It didn't really discuss in any depth the awful things that are happening in China, in the environment in order to make the cheap things that Wal-Mart sells on its shelves. You don't hear them say "we have environmentally friendly prices." You hear them say that "we have low prices."

Low prices and a good ad strategy brings us back to the golden days of marketing.

Sarah Gardner showed us how Crisco greased up consumer demand and won the loyalties of her very own mother.

Barbara Ruth of New Haven, Connecticut heard that story while she was doing some baking of her own and she just had to share a secret from her kitchen.

BARBARA RUTH: Your reporter may believe that her mother is just a marketer's dupe, but any pie baker worth her or his salt can tell you the real reason for using vegetable shortening in pies -- it makes the flakiest crust.

Good brands carry stories with them. Even though the stories aren't always good. Several of you wrote to point out a commentary about "Brand America" a couple of weeks ago didn't quite shoot straight. We had said a shipment of tainted Tylenol 25 years ago was an example of a brand gone bad. That case in 1982 actually involved product tampering, and any student of corporate public relations can tell you, Johnson and Johnson was actually praised for its quick response.

If you've got something on your mind -- act quickly. Go to our website, and click on that link that says "contact." It's marketplace.org.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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