December 6, 2015

We Can't Afford Consumerism

I see. I want. I get. I emit.

For many people money is the only barrier to consuming. The only question is, "Can I afford it?" Translated this means, "Do I have the money, or can I earn the money in the future, or borrow the money now, to make this purchase as soon as possible?"

If the answer is "yes", and in this age of debt it always is except in the most extreme of cases, whatever is wanted gets bought. We desperately need new questions.

Questions like, "Can the planet afford it?"

Looking at the state of things currently, I would have to say, "No, we can't afford consumerism."

While evidence for coming to this conclusion will not be found in the mainstream media, it is getting increasingly difficult to ignore. All corners of our beautiful home have been depleted and destroyed in the name of satisfying manufactured desires.

Another question we need to ask is, "Who is most responsible for drawing down our shared ecological account?"

The richest 10% are responsible for almost half total lifestyle consumption emissions, for example, while the poorest 50% are responsible for only 10% of emissions. That means the wealthiest 50% are responsible for 90% of emissions.

The more money you have, the more damage you do. The best thing that could happen to a lot of people would be for them to have less money, because we can't afford the damage that results from all that wealth being spent. It would be better for them, others and the planet.

I see. I don't want. I live simply and contentedly with what I have. Why? Because we can't afford consumerism.


  1. Anonymous12/06/2015

    Have you seen the documentary Cowspiracy? According to that film, animal food production is the largest cause of global warming. Obviously, the western consumption lifestyle also plays a huge role, I'd just be interested in hearing you address animal food production. It's wonderful to focus on reducing consumption, but there's even more people can do. I'm a longtime reader of your blog and really enjoy your writing.

    1. I have not seen Cowspiracy, but will be looking it up. Meat-based diets are looking as much likes dinosaurs as fossil fuels.

      When I write about high-consumption lifestyles I include meat eating since it is such a resource-intensive food. From production to slaughter to the plate and digestive system, it is bad news all the way. Not good for people or the planet, and really not good for the billions of sentient creatures that are killed.

      Linda and I had our vegetarian conversion experience in India in 2001. Since then I have found that many people are willing to do things like turn lights out when not using them, or lowering the thermostat, or even driving less, but reducing or eliminating meat in their diet is off the table.

      It often gets ugly, and I understand. Changing your diet can be a daunting task, and the system is not really set up to encourage people to change their eating habits. But awareness is building, and we can see that meat-based diets are the Hummers of nutrition.

      Thanks for being a long time reader of NBA. We appreciate the support of our readers.

  2. Anonymous12/07/2015

    Excellent documentary along with Forks Over Knives for health. If animal production was stopped tomorrow we would reduce emissions by over 50% and massively reduce methane in the atmosphere. I think why so much dairy is used is due to the addictive nature of casomorphin and so they lace a lot of products including chocolate, processed food and biscuits etc. People are going to have to decide what’s more important the planet or eating animal foods. we absolutely need the planet and if we drop animal products the planet and us would be much healthier. A shout out to Dr McDougall and the excellent work he keeps doing. check out Dr Richard Oppenlander on the McDougall Youtube page and he discusses the environmental cost.

    1. Another one to bookmark. Thank you.

      Another resource Linda and I really enjoyed was, "101 Reasons I'm A Vegetarian" by Pamela Rice.

      "In what is still the most comprehensive investigation of diet and life- style ever conducted, The China Study found that the consumption of surprisingly small amounts of animal protein is linked to chronic disease."

      A PDF version of the book is available.

      Click here to see 101 very convincing reasons to become a vegetarian.

    2. Anonymous12/08/2015

      Thanks for the link, very nice and consise summary. Alex

  3. Anonymous12/07/2015

    Consumption is a huge cost to us and the planet. I think as the wealth gap accelerates consumption and destruction allowing for exploitation of developing countries. I live simply as possibly and I'm interested in alternative systems to that provided by consumption. The Linux kernel for example is WAY better than any commercial rival and is created by communities of people without the incentive of profit, it just works better in every way. The idea that the 'free' market creates efficiency is a lie and what really works is community and love given freely. I deeply love this planet and it's just a shame to see the way that it is being treated.

    1. I often imagine what the world would be like if we were all encouraged to be 'creators' instead of 'consumers'. Humans have an innate desire to create, and when supported by a loving community, amazing things happen.

      What if that creative desire was the prime motivator instead of just buying other people's stuff? There is money aplenty right now for everyone on the planet to have enough for a simple and satisfying life as a creative contributor to the evolving human experiment.

  4. There is no doubt that we consume too much meat on a worldly basis and that this indirectly along with enormous food waste is causing great difficulties for the planet. However, we need to address consumerism along side with other issues. Humans want more than they ought to have and if they can buy or somehow get their hands on it they will. All these factors together are slowly killing the planet. Pam

    1. Or even quickly killing the planet. How many of us alive today will have the luxury of dying of old age? People continue having children, so they at least must be hopeful that this thing is going to continue for a while longer. What kind of world will we leave for those kids?


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