May 21, 2011

Another BRIC In The Wall?

The BRIC nations have the fastest growing economies

All in all will they just be another BRIC in the wall? Will they make the same mistakes that developed countries have made, and are making? Will they sink into American style materialism? Or will the people of the rapidly developing countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China change the way 'progress' is defined?

I have been watching the "Big Four" with great interest. It has been predicted that by 2050 the BRIC countries will surpass the economic clout of today's developed powers, marking a huge shift in global power and influence. I am hoping that will be a good thing.

I am hopeful that these newly developing nations will plot a different course than we did. With cultures so unique and ancient, and with people more used to living simpler, less corporate lives, I am betting they will put their own twist on global capitalism. Perhaps they will make it work for them (all of them), rather than becoming automatons and working for it - to the overall detriment of their happiness.

A recent comment on this blog gives a glimpse into one of the BRIC nations - Brazil, and at least one person that is resisting the changes washing over her often-misunderstood country of 190 million potential consumers.

Marina writes of her plan to not buy anything except necessities for one year starting June 1st, and outlines some of the driving forces behind her decision to give up the consumer life.
My intent to go one year without shopping for anything is an attempt to reflect on the choices I make. I´m interested in living in a healthier, simpler way. In Brazil we still lead simpler lives compared to the US and Europe. We cook our own beans from scratch every day, we drink juice made out of real fruit, we buy less, we rarely see products that are OK in the garbage, and it´s really common to walk.
All of those things are starting to change because our country is getting richer, but Brazilian´s identity has a lot to do with being spontaneous and living life in a more improvised way. That´s just the way most people are. One serious problem here is that we treat our environment badly and companies and people are starting to worry about this just now.
 When I was in India for a few months in 2001, enjoying the cultural gifts and the simple life lived by regular people, I felt like yelling out warnings in the streets. "Beware Americanization. Resist global capitalism, greed, and environmental destruction. Don't believe the promise of increased happiness through increased consumption."

Will this result in increased happiness?

I yell now to Marina, and all those citizens of BRIC countries attempting to hold on to the simple lives they know and love. You are on the right track. You can demand a new kind of development and progress that will not require you to sell your souls.

Citizens can question what is happening around them, rather than trust those who stand to gain the most. The same people who say that industrialization, corporatization and building a massive middle class will be good for everyone, and that the environment isn't as important as jobs and prosperity. A brave few are calling out the liars.

These are the rebels I have been holding out for. Rebels like Marina. I will do everything I can to support these compassionate souls that do not want to repeat the violent mistakes we have made. Rebels that will show us how progress is done while maintaining simplicity, spontaneity, and environmental integrity.

Besides, if they can't do it better than we have, we are all doomed. We are all in this together, and we would be smart to cooperate now in providing all humans with enough through enriching small footprint, sustainable lifestyles.

Ernest F. Schumacher summed it up well in his book Small Is Beautiful:

"A modern economist is used to measuring the 'standard of living' by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is 'better off' than a man who consumes less. I consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption
The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity."


  1. There is something magical, perhaps, about the pursuit of simplicity. I am a student at Kansas State University. To gain a better understanding of the concept of sustainability I referred to the Director of Sustainability here, who gave me a brief list of scholarly books on the matter. While searching for these books, of which "Small is Beautiful" was not on the list, in a local used book store, I came across E. F. Schumacher's wonderful work. The title caught me, I had said it before. Over the past months I have been slowly pondering over the book. It is amazing that I found it only by chance. What a blessing. What a simple happenstance. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It just makes sense. Small is beautiful. People matter. Money and materials were supposed to only be a means to an end, that end being happiness and fulfillment, but we, the perverted that we are, have made money and materials into ends themselves, thus destroying ourselves.


  2. Nate,

    What a gift to stumble across such a beautiful book. It is definitely under-appreciated - simple living is a hard sell in a world in love with complexity and MORE.

    You are right about us destroying ourselves. I wonder why more people do not see this.

    Enjoy the magic.


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