chapter  7
21 Pages

Sustainability and Social Equity

Outside Oberhausen, in the Ruhr, lies CentrO, Europe’s biggest shopping mall. Built on the site of a now-demolished steel mill owned by Thyssen and opened in September 1996, CentrO is a physical embodiment in concrete, glass and steel (and many other non-renewable and high material-intensity resources) of the significance of consumption in the developed world. Described by Newnham (1996) as a ‘cathedral to consumption’, this DM 2 billion investment is a mixture of fantasy and materialism, cocooning shoppers in a surreal theme park. Shoppers are physically protected from the outside world and socially detached from its problems. Most of the shops, including Charlie’s Farm, are under a glass roof to ensure that the seasons are homogenized; the process of parting shoppers from their money is facilitated by keeping them comfortable. Charlie’s Farm is a supermarket, where trees with rubber mouths say ‘Let’s go shopping the American way’ in both German and English, there is a collection of plastic farmyard animals (the hens sing), a farmer who fishes and a windmill with revolving sails. Elsewhere in CentrO, lasers project holograms on to water curtains. Shoppers can drink Guinness in an Irish pub, buy sushi or patronize the inevitable McDonalds. For the children there is a pirate’s ship.