Consumerism

Apparently, it’s bad and the government should help us to be rid of it.

Why is it bad? Because it uses up precious resources and spews out pollutants.
And get this:

“We have been living beyond our means, and the consequences are evident all across the planet,” says Global Footprint Network Executive Director Mathis Wackernagel, the 45-year-old, Swiss-born economist who helped design the group’s consumption metric. “As we move deeper into ecological deficit, the risks are tremendous — prices go up, supplies collapse, conflicts arise and the environment’s ability to recover greatly diminishes.” Wackernagel points to recent food riots in Haiti, Egypt, Bangladesh and elsewhere and ever-rising gas prices in the U.S. as examples of the political and economic disruption that sudden, rising demand can precipitate.

Is that amazing or what? The US is the BIG consumer. The US is a free nation. Haiti, Egypt, Bangladesh all have very, very, very low carbon footprints. Haiti, Egypt, Bangladesh are not what I would call “free democratic societies”. Haiti, Egypt, Bangladesh have food riots caused by consumerism. ???? huh???

I read that paragraph 3 times.

Check this out:

Among his pet peeves, Maniates often tells audiences, are the ubiquitous lists promising “10 Simple Things to Save the Planet.” There are no simple things, he insists, unless you care to consider these: 1) Get rid of your car; 2) consume only locally grown organic foods; and 3) stop buying stuff you don’t need.

Ok – he’s talking about saving “The Planet” here, right. To do that, somehow we are supposed to essentially not invest in the planet. Only buy local or don’t buy at all. That may save your budget. It may save a bit of carbon, but how on earth will that help out “The Planet”?

I’m sure you want to know how Maniates would fix this. Well, lets look to the government, shall we

“When our leaders acknowledge the problem and engage us all in finding a solution, there will be no shortage of ideas and innovation,” Maniates suggests. We must recycle more, invest in alternative energies and commit to public transportation, he says. Also, the government could tax consumption, rather than income — and the list goes on. But Maniates and others believe a lasting solution requires more than simply taxing undesirable choices (like SUVs and luxury goods) and offering incentives for desirable ones (like solar energy and organic farming). Real change — steep declines in per-capita consumption of energy and raw materials — will occur when Americans are allowed to choose lifestyles that initiate low-consumption patterns of behavior. Invariably, those lifestyles are the consequence of trading a degree of work (and pay) for time — a tradeoff that Maniates and others say plenty of Americans are willing to make. The equation is simple: Less work = less money = less consumption.
Maniates says government must make it easier for workers to make those choices: “We need to allow people to do the right thing — policy measures that allow them to follow their noses to happiness and satisfaction.”

I actually like a consumption tax vs income, but who in the government is capable of determining “good behavior” vs “bad behavior” for taxing purposes and why on earth should type A people who want to work more be subsidizing part timers insurance so that they can then go sit on their duffs and not consume? Oh – yeah – to save “The Planet”.

One more bizarre, not well thought out quote from this article:

Keep in mind, our government pays us to go shopping; why would it suddenly encourage parsimony?

Yes, Mr. Maniates thinks that the government giving you back the money that was taken from you by the government is the equivalent of the government paying you to shop.

I actually like to live very very simply. I ride the bike, I walk places, I live in a tiny tiny house and I really hate to shop. I would love to work part time in order to play full time, but I realize that yes, I need health insurance and it’s expensive and I don’t really think you should buy it for me. (Plus who would plug in all those numbers and move them around if I weren’t at work??)
It’s a whole movement that is growing and will probably continue to grow. Naturally. Not by decree.

The government does not exist to keep us in line with what Mr. Maniates believes is the better way to live. (click through to the article so you can follow Mr. Maniates better way to live tricks of the small consumer) The government can’t legislate itself out of a hole in the ground.

Live as you wish. Just don’t ruin public property for me and don’t go trying to start wars with us or disobeying the laws here that exist to keep things fairish. That’s what the govt is there for.

(ht A thinking reed)

3 thoughts on “Consumerism

  1. I agree with you …I think they need to come down from their meeting with the burning bush to check out reality for most of us…we are just trying to make it in our own way, and shopping certainly isn’t on my list of things I like to do…….

  2. Hi…Thanks for commenting on the article that draws on my work. The main thrust of my thinking is simply this: We ought to have the choice to trade leisure for consumption, happiness for work-place drudgery, and riding in our cars for gliding about in efficient mass transit. And we can’t get this if we limit our actions to simple consumer choices, which are largely constructed for us to keep us busy. I imagine that we agree a whole lot more than you might think: I DON’T want to be in the business of telling people how to live the good life, or to have the goverment tell others what that should be. I do wish, though, that we had real choices — mass transit vs. cars, for example, rather than a red car vs. a blue car vs. a hybrid car.

    We won’t make it to some form of sustainability unless there are fundamental changes in how we live. We won’t get there through 10 Simple Things alone — we need, as you observe, real investments in meaningful options that allow Americans to fully live out their concerns for family, their children, and the environment.

    Let’s keep talking about this!

    Yours,
    Michael Maniates

  3. Wow! Thank you so much for commenting here Mr. Maniates!

    I am honored.

    While I think we agree in the simple living idea, we diverge when it comes to the government working to make it happen.
    You wish we had real choices. But I believe we already do.

    (I’m talking in general now, not about the extremely poor)
    We don’t need to live in suburbia far from work. We don’t need to live in large houses, or have air conditioning, or cable tv or lattes. If we lived closer to where we worked, we could walk. If we didn’t sign our kids up for every soccer team out there we could eliminate the family taxi. If we chose to play cards instead of watch $90/month tv we could not work those extra hours. These are the small things, but they count towards trading consumerism for leisure.

    These items exist as options now. And there are thousands. Buy rice and cook it, or buy prepackaged “rice bowls” and microwave it. All these things cost money and are part of being a consumerist.

    The government already subsidizes much of higher education thereby allowing most to trade “work place drudgery” for happiness.

    And as for mass transit, not only could we live closer to work, but should the government step up and take the money that working people make and invest it in mass transit – there is zero evidence that lives would change for the simpler.
    Most mass transit needs to continue to be subsidized because their ridership isn’t enough.

    This country is quite large vs Europe as far as mass transit is concerned so it’s more than just being consumerists. It’s also more practical to drive yourself in many instances.

    Choices in sustainability come with being free of worry about food/housing/safety. That’s why Haiti/Egypt/Bangladesh would riot while you don’t see the riots in Japan and here or Australia.

    People in dire circumstances due to economic concerns and bad governments don’t give a ding about the environment or sustainability.

    Prosperity comes with a government that minds it’s own business, existing mainly to protect the laws of the land. In that manner, freedom and the (relatively) fair/free exchange of goods and services allows for prosperity and with it the time/energy to deal with sustainability.

    Let the movement play itself out.

    As energy becomes more expensive, you’ll see those lifestyle changes you are looking for. Michael Pollen books, Return to simplicity movements, the small house movement, generation X wanting more free time, are all current realities. If we can keep the government out of it, the reality will happen quicker than if they involve themselves and screw up the whole balance!

    In my humble opinion.

    Again – thank you so much for taking the time to comment here!

    Terri

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