Let’s just slow down for a minute and ponder: Don’t we have too much stuff? Don’t we spent a generous amount of time buying, storing and taking care of all this stuff? Let alone that we are forced to throw ourselves in the grind of work every single day in order to get and maintain all this stuff.
‘’At least we are rewarded with a comfortable, convenient life’’ one could argue. Well, scientists are crystal clear: while our consumption has increased manyfold after the second World War, our happiness level has stagnated. In few words, buying stuff did not make us any happier. On the contrary, high rates of suicide and depression are modern day phenomena of affluent Western societies. In reality we are suffocating among all this stuff, as they do not contribute to our quality of life. That does not mean that we need to experience indigence; we still do need the life’s basics: good food and water, a decent place to live, a real family within an active circle of beloved persons, a healthy environment etc.
Think again, did our lifestyle of overabundance contribute to the betterment of any of the essential elements of life mentioned above? On the contrary, our consumer-self has been involved in the ruining of this planet to the point that scientist are doubting if our environment can be ever-restored. Stuff is made out of natural resources and the resources are running out while they get severely degraded. We also use also enormous amounts of energy to keep the products flowing in the markets. All this results in mounting waste and carbon emissions. Moreover, while we are buying all this stuff, the majority of people in most countries of the planet cannot afford to buy even the basics for life: they do not have even access to food or potable water. The majority of the people are currently poor (living with less than two dollars a day) while 1 billion of them were hungry in 2010 – a number higher than ever before since the 70’s! But it gets even worse: our resource-devouring, waste-producing ways of living cast a shadow over the lives of nature-dependent communities in developing countries.
Imagine a family in the Himalayan Mountains that lives largely outside of our market economy and relies on weather and the local resources (water, good soil, seeds etc.) to grow decent produce for the needs of the year. If this does not work, there are no insurances, compensations for them, the people just go hungry. Climate Change is predicted to primarily affect people that live in fragile environments in many ways like for instance by increasingly erratic weather patterns that cause yields to decline. People worldwide already feel this threat in their daily lives. Morally, it is a pressing issue: why the majority people have to suffer the impact of the privileged few while they have not participated in this affluent party? It is unacceptable!
Here you can see the Adbusters ad:
So then it becomes absolutely necessary for us in the affluent West to do something for our own broken lives and the tragic distress we cause. We, at the heart of consumption, have the possibility to make a change. Let’s rest from shopping; there are more creative things to do anyway. We can celebrate a more conscious, less resource-intensive lifestyle on the 26th of November!
The Buy Nothing Day was first celebrated in Mexico in 1992 and since the events have been spreading internationally to over 65 countries by now. People have been organizing various events and actions on that day – many will be organized this year as well. Everybody can form a group and organize a satirical ”Buy more, consume more” zombie walk, a sit-in or just a free street party. The crucial thing is that after any feel-good event to experience a lasting change.
Consuming is not to be demonized per se: we need to consume to survive and markets have always been vital cells of social life in every community on the planet. We can consume in a moderate way nonetheless that satisfies our needs and supports our local producers instead of conglomerates. Even better: we can create networks of exchange. Consuming less albeit better products will raise the quality of our lives! We do not need to waste our time shopping and getting fat but we can do something more meaningful instead.