19 March, 2009

weekly discussion #6 (anthro 101, class)

We live in a first world consumerist nation. Despite a faltering economy, we have a great deal of wealth (both as a nation and individually) when we compare this to most people in the world.

First watch the story about how we became a consumerist nation and the effects of our demand for a lot of stuff for cheap: www.thestoryofstuff.com.

Given that we'd need about five earths to sustain everyone at the American middle class level (which is, of course, impossible) – what do you think should be done about the more than 50% of the world that lives in total poverty? Considering that our consumer behaviours are directly tied to envronmental problems and the production of cheaper goods by exploiting those in the world that have little education, power and wealth – do you think there is anything we can do within the global market economy to improve people's lives?


Considering I am an EcoGeek, I've actually spent a good amount of time researching and trying to come to grips with the fact that all we do in America is waste. I've put much thought into how on the earth we could get ourselves out of this mess we've created for ourselves, and since the rest of the world has quickly followed suit, it doesn't seem a simple or easy dilemma to solve.

In America, we like to do it fast, cheap and with whatever materials/chemicals is going to get the job done quickest. Fast food nation, that's us. It makes me mental. We are ruining the planet and being completely selfish. Who said, out of all the people and countries in the world, that we should be the ones who get what we want and take what they can't have? No one. Now that the rest of the world is following suit (and I don't necessarily blame them, they've seen us want and take if anything shouldn't they 'get a turn'?) we have an even bigger problem than just the 5 planets we'd need to sustain everyone at that level of consumption . . . we also have the fact that the world's resources are also evaporating thus there isn't much left to create the crap we "need" anyway!

What can we do, if there is anything, to improve people's lives in the world economy? I was just talking with a friend today who moved to America from France, about how back in the day in France, they didn't do credit cards. Few people had an emerging small-end credit card, but it was one where you had to pay the credit card off at the end of the month or the card got taken away. Now, everyone in the world has plastic. Master Card and Visa, they're the traveler's cards, right? There isn't anywhere that doesn't let you swipe the plastic, almost, anymore. Everyone is following us and because of this not only do we have the consumeristic/exploitation problem, but it brings us to the current state of our own economy and now much of the world is suffering the same! All because we all want, want, want and there's no way we can just take advantage of each other or the world for much longer!

Long answer short, I believe there is totally a way we could help improve people's lives from here forward. We as Americans, and really as people, need to stop mindlessly consuming. That's the bottom line. No matter what our economy depends on, we can't keep consuming crap and depleting the world's valuable resources. How many cars does a family need, one per person? Come on. How many "individually packaged" items do we buy a day? How much stuff do we just throw away, versus recycling either in the literal sense or by just passing our gently used items on? We have to stop.

We also need to stop depending on sweat-shop labour for the creation of all our cheap goods. Like we've mentioned in class; does America really make or export much of anything? Besides our bad habits, not really. We need to change this, too. And we can't just start making crap, we need to invest in what we produce, make it last and make it worth the purchase. Why is it that American car companies are hardly making it? Because the competition has better product!

I'm in a place where I'm still trying to figure out how we should go about addressing this huge issue that is so relevant to the times we're facing as a country and global economy now, but until something drastic changes or we collectively put our foot down and say "No, this consumeristic economy does not work" nothing will change and we will continue on the downward spiral we are currently on. There is always a way to change things, get things back on track toward the better, we've just all got to get on the same page and make it happen - and it starts at home. Each one of us can do little things in life to not take part in it. It may be drastic at first, because we're all so used to having everything we want; but that's so not fair and not right.

Have a little more patience with the drive-through person at McDonalds, don't shop at Wal*Mart, buy local produce, shop and mom and pop shops as much as possible . . . I almost feel like one of the biggest steps in the right direction is locality. Moving back toward the way things used to be; community and locality. Sure, we can keep our international-ness, but locality and investing in our communities is the way we got along for so many years in the past, i think it's time we move back toward that.


bridget said...

mallory, you have proven such a good point.
it makes so much sense. thank you.

Kim Hedrick said...

EcoGeek- I like that. Great comments! :)