During my recent stay in Canada, and again, thanks to Steven Moore and his course on Ecological Economics, I took a life changing decision (besides becoming vegetarian :p). I decided to consume less! “But why ?” one might ask; “don’t you want employment to rise, our economy to function?” Here’s my answer:
- First, consumerism is the problem, not the solution
- Second, I refuse to believe that the only way to have a functioning economy is by owning 20 t-shirts made in sweatshops half way around the word
- And third, ask yourself: does buying things make you happy?
Let me explain. Consumerism is the reason we’re in this mess to begin with, and by mess I mean ecological crisis. In order to work, a capitalist economy needs to grow. Which means that more and more goods and services need to be exchanged for money. And it’s for that reason that the system has gradually turned people into consumers. Think about it, the word “consumer” is now being used instead of the word “person” in many different contexts. Spending our free time often involves spending money. Our social status is exclusively linked to how much money we make and how much stuff we own. Companies constantly lie to us and we listen. As Charles Eisenstein explains in his video Living Without Economic Growth, the truth is, we don’t have the tools to manage an economy that isn’t growing; and instead of trying to develop them, we stubbornly continue on the road to our extinction…
As John Oliver puts it in his show Last Week Tonight (it’s pretty funny and there’s a surprise at the end :p), clothes have never been so cheap, and yet, CEOs of Gap and H&M are among the wealthiest people in the world. But nobody asks how that’s possible because we already know the answer. We just choose to ignore the truth because it’s so inconvenient. Refusing to buy clothes made in sweatshops can mean buying more expensive clothes, having a limited choice of brands… But it also means buying less, choosing only the item that we need. There are so many clothes we never wear! And more importantly, it means putting an end to our massive contribution to the lack of human rights in the majority world.
Have you tried not buying anything except food and essential things for a week? Well I have, and I found it really hard! It’s hard because temptations are everywhere: shops, sales, new trends… But it also felt extremely rewarding and made me want to buy less. Consuming doesn’t make us happy and we know it. The satisfaction it procures is an illusion that never lasts long, and spending less time consuming means spending more time enjoying the things that really count in life.
In the next couple of articles, I will go through the different things we can do to change our consumer habits 🙂
Related readings :
Green consumerism is no solution by Richard Wilk
Marx’s Ecology – materialism and nature by John Bellamy Foster
The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible by Charles Eisenstein, available online!
“Anyone with any degree of mental toughness ought to be able to exist without the things they like most for a few months at least.” – George O’Keeffe