Earth to IKEA

What that Poäng chair really costs.

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FURNITURE USED to be an investment, meant to last a lifetime. But thanks in no small part to IKEA, that’s changed. Now we buy bookshelves for $19.99—and feel fine about throwing them away two years later. In her forthcoming book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, Ellen Ruppel Shell chronicles how the Swedish furniture giant crafted the message that furniture can be affordable and adorable and sustainable. “With its focus on sharp design and Scandinavian élan, its hip, irreverent television commercials, its conspicuously progressive outlook,” she says, “IKEA appears to be the anti-Wal-Mart, a classy, high-minded company where value and good values coexist.” But do they? IKEA is now the world’s third-largest consumer of lumber after Home Depot and Lowe’s—and though it likes to tout its sustainable harvesting program, the responsibility of policing the logging has fallen on just 11 forestry monitors. As Mother Jones has reported, up to 25 percent of IKEA’s furniture is made with wood culled from the vast forests of northern Russia—an area notorious for illegal logging—and milled in China. There’s just too much to keep track of, as one monitor admits in a company report: “It’s not possible to be everywhere all the time.” The larger point is this: When IKEA says its wood furniture is made from a “renewable material,” it reinforces the idea that disposable is okay.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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