Reduce, reduce, reduce

I am sick of consumerism. Just plain sick of it. I am tired of living in a country where the measure of the country’s “health” is based on getting people to buy more and more stuff each year. I am sick of being bombarded day in day out by advertising trying to convince me that I will be happier if I have a new car, a new house, the latest cell phone, and countless other unnecessary items. I am sickened by the fact that thousands of factories in impoverished areas spew poisons, ruin the environment and use up our precious resources to produce useless plastic junk that will just end up in a landfill somewhere.

I think people know, deep down, that they are not going to be made happy by their material possessions, but so many people have repressed that knowledge, have convinced themselves and been convinced by advertising that they will be made happy if they buy more, that they are happy now that they own some new product. But if they stop to think they might feel an emptiness, something in them that has not been fulfilled by their constant buying.

Yet it seems like a never-ending vicious cycle. Our economy is built on the concept of producing and consuming. How do we stop that in its tracks, turn it upside down, and demand that the economy be based on something else, such as compassion and treating others fairly?

Colin Beavan of the blog No Impact Man has a good post on “The ridiculousness of relying on ‘market indicators’ to run our planet” last week. At the end he says:

We know that blowing the top off a mountain to get coal and that burning the coal to cause global warming is not good for anyone. We know that putting people to work helping people in the developing world get fresh drinking water is better than making throwaway razors.

Do we really need “free market signals” to tell us that? Why do we need to include externalities in prices before we do what we should? We can’t we just accept that economics are not the be all and end all and just do what is right?

He also had an article at WorldChanging on moving beyond the concept of sustainability. He says we should not just settle for making the same old products in a more sustainable manner, we should look at whether those products are actually contributing to our betterment:

When our measure of sustainability asks only if a given activity is something we can get away with doing — and fails to ask whether that activity is worth doing at all — we fail to see the larger picture.

“Sustainable” implies something can be done, but it says nothing about whether it should be done. It says nothing about whether our precious resources are being used for our betterment.

When we are deciding whether to buy something, we should ask whether the happiness and enjoyment we think it will bring us is worth the resources used in its production.

We will be a happier, healthier people living on a healthier planet if we reduce firstly our consumption and consequently our production of useless, even harmful products and resist the idea that material possessions equal happiness. We need to stop the senseless stream of consumerism that has taken over so many of our lives.

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2 Responses to Reduce, reduce, reduce

  1. Tabor says:

    Materialism is a constant battle with me. I have retired and as I age I find I need tools to help me do things more easily…leaf blowers and new sharper knives. Yet I agree that there is no more ‘away’ to throw it. I do recycle as much as possible.

  2. Sarah says:

    Welcome, tabor, and thanks for your comment. There is certainly a place and use for material items. I’m not about to get rid of my microwave, or my sewing machine, or my computer, or my cell phone (which, however, is 3.5 years old). I wouldn’t feel bad about needing more tools, and thus needing to buy things, to help you as you age. What I am sickened by are the extremes and the people who do not seem to think about these things at all – a young, clearly able-bodied person using a leaf-blower, or buying a brand-new set of knives even though their old ones are still perfectly sharp, simply because they were convinced by the advertising that these new knives were better.The other thing I encourage people to think about is the third word – reuse. When you do need to obtain some item, you could look for it used first – at garage sales, thrift stores, or on craigslist. I am personally trying to do this more and more.

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