It wasn't until last year that I realized where my passion in education really was, and where I knew I could find continued work happiness. I know I am not going to be a scientist by any means, but just working in the Environmental industry, helping to make the planet a better place, even if it is just on the clerical side of the business, is where I want to be. So in my studies I came across this conclusion in my Business Ethics class. I want to share it with you.
These then are my three arguments about why we consume too much: we are locked into a "cycle of work and spend," we have failed to value the earth's capital, and consuming has become a means to social esteem and belonging. In the process, we are undermining our quality of life. We fail to take enough leisure, and live excessively busy and stressful lives. We are poisoning the planet. And we find ourselves needing to earn too much money or going into debt, or getting stressed out by the rapid rise in consumer norms. Community, security, and the peace of mind that comes from having reached a state of sufficiency are increasingly elusive.
The standard economic analysis sees precious little of this. More is always better. Individuals will act in their interest to avoid these traps. Collective action failures or externalities are rarely more than small problems. Similarly, the consumer critics have failed to understand the structural dynamics that make consuming a rational choice for the individual, even if it is an irrational one for society as a while. They take an excessively dim view of people's abilities to act well for themselves. And they underestimate how important consumption can be in a society organized around it. But they are certainly right, that excessive consumption has become a serious problem--from the stand point of our daily lives, our ethical obligations to others around the world. from the stand point of the earth and its sacred bounty.
In recent year, increasing numbers of Americans have come to these and similar conclusions. They are individually escaping "the cycle of work and spend," by down shifting (working less and spending less). They are joining the emerging voluntary simplicity movement, living modestly, volunteering their time, spending their days doing the things they are passionate about. They are joining study groups in their workplace and churches. Some are even organizing an anti-consumerist movement, participating in Buy-Nothing Day (the Friday after Thanksgiving) or designing sub-vertising (anti-ads which turn the tools of advertising and marketing against itself). They are protesting corporate globalization of the economy. They are joining organic farms and drinking shade grown coffee. They are riding bicycles. And they are opposing the corporate co-optation of their lifestyle, as the Gap, Honda, Starbucks and Time-Warner try to make money selling "simplicity" as the latest hop consumer trend.
But they (we) need more Americans to join. The domination of the consumer culture remains impressive, and as patriotic appeals to consume have become common... since Sept. 11, we should resist the temptation to run to the mall. Instead, let us take this very painful but special time to step back and ask some fundamental questions. Why do we consume so much? What are the effects of that consumption? And how can we create a community that respects the earth, respects each and every human being upon it, and truly meets human needs?"(Shaw, William; Barry, Vincent; Moral Issues in Business 11th Edition; 2010, Wadsworth Cengage Learning)
What does this mean to you?