Consumers must continually increase their consumption of products to feed the economy so that it can grow and expand, which in return, supports their accustomed lifestyles. A robust economy where everyone can buy whatever they want to make their lives easier is the American Dream– freedom from want, without sacrifice.
The flaw in this thinking is that it truly is a dream. There is a sacrifice and it’s staring us right in the face. It is the degradation of our natural environment, which we are willing to sell out to the highest bidder. We are in denial of the true impact our society has on the environment. The public is led to believe that we must choose between economic security and ecological health but this is simply not true. We do not have to sacrifice ecology for economy. When we realize that we are a part of nature and not separate from it, only then can we live sustainably on this earth.
If we examine our current relationship between our economy and our environment we see that every product we have ever manufactured came from natural resources. Cell phones, IPads, televisions, shampoo, pharmaceuticals, clothes, hair dryers, shoes, magazines, cars, all came from raw earth elements that were mined or harvested from the earth. A growing economy depends on keeping the public buying more and more stuff, thereby increasing production of all the stuff.
It takes a considerable amount of energy to dig up raw earth resources, separate the waste, melt it down, mold it into the product it will become, and transport it to the Walmart store. We then drive over to buy it, drive back home, use it, and throw it away. Then a truck comes by and hauls it to a landfill! Even the energy used to make all this stuff has been taken from the earth.
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In essence, we are transforming our natural landscapes into trash.
Our economic culture is based on increasing consumption but it is dependant upon ecosystems that are limited. Harvested forests may be replanted but they never increase in size. Harvested mountain tops do not grow back. The wildlife that support and are supported by these shrinking ecosystems will only decline. We have become separated from the earth and we cannot bear to look at what we have done to her.
For more than 50,000 years humans lived in balance and cooperated with nature. Then, at some point our advancing civilization aspired to conquer the forces of nature. And over the last few hundred years we discovered how to exploit it to build our cities and feed our populations.
We have entered an era where this imbalance has to end. We can put it off as long as possible but the transition will only get more difficult. We must begin to build a new culture, one that is sustainable. It is painful to read about the destruction of our rainforests and oceans, but we have to look at it. We have to feel it. We have to stop it. If the rampant depletion of our natural resources continues like this for another 20 years, imagine what our lives will be like.
The transition is already happening.
Of course we can’t stop harvesting the earth completely, but we can certainly slow it down. Those of us who are transitioning to the new eco culture already recognize the relationship between what we buy and what we throw out. When there are options to buy recycled we choose that. We buy organic and eat lower on the food chain. In the interest of longevity we lead a simpler life without much sacrifice of comfort. Yes, we put out a little more effort, we burn a few more calories and we feel good about it.
If everybody began altering their lifestyle piece by piece, the economy will have a chance to transition along with us. If enough people patronize a deli because they serve biodegradable plastic ware and compost their food waste, the competition would then follow suit. Eventually it would become the norm. Capitalism will always adapt to any cultural shift. Jobs that depend on raw earth materials will decline as jobs in recycling and renewable energies will increase. It will not happen overnight. It will take time. So why not get started right now!
As we attempt to expose our ties with the accepted culture and support the creation of a post- modern eco culture we ask that you tune in and get involved.
by: John Messerschmidt