Can We Ever Stop Being consumers?

It’s getting late.  The sun is already going down and I am just writing this post.  I have come back from my walk and it brought up things I have been thinking about all day.  I was listening to a podcast by fellow Druids on Faith, Fern, and Compass.  It made me think.

Can we ever stop being consumers?

Of course the real answer is no.  No matter how much you try to be less of a consumer, you have to consume something.  If you don’t, you die.  That is not what I’m talking about, however.

I spent a good part of this morning setting up my new TV.  The old TV, about twenty years old, finally gave out.  This is my first digital TV and the first flat screen.  Some would say I was living in the past, but the old worked fine until everything went digital.  It has been going down hill since.

I will tell you that this TV cost me a bit over two hundred dollars.

This was my first concern.

I paid more for a television than many people make in a month and some in a year.  Does that seem right?  It does to me.  I almost didn’t buy it.  How could I be so wasteful?  I did buy it.  It works wonderfully.  Did I need it?  No.

This morning, my wife drove about four hundred miles to meet my daughter for a shopping trip.  It’s more than that, really it is a bonding time, but the excuse is a Christmas shopping trip.  Yeah I know, I’m a Pagan that still celebrates Christmas.  So sue me!

Anyway, did she have to drive that many miles?  Did she have to waste that much natural resource to go shopping?  The answer, at least on the surface is no.  She could have stayed home.  She couldn’t fly, it costs too much and is even more wasteful than driving.  She couldn’t take the train, we have decided to tear up too many track to make the train a viable option for most trips.

The question returns, can we ever stop being consumers.  Now some of what I just talked about seems like an acceptable thing to do because we are spoiled Americans.  People in other countries would not have had to think for a second to know the answer.  Not only wouldn’t they, they couldn’t.

As a Pagan, a Druid, and a Naturist, the earth is important to me.  I don’t want to be wasteful.  I don’t want to add plastic and all the other materials in my old TV to a land fill.  I don’t want to waste petroleum to drive four hundred miles to buy more crap to put into landfills.

But we have to live.

Not seeing my daughter would be hard on my wife.  We miss her, miss seeing her.  We enjoy movies and like to watch the news when something important happens.  We couldn’t watch the Presidential debates because of our old TV.

What do you do that makes you feel a little wasteful?  Are there things that you feel bad about because it harms the earth and yet you do them anyway.  I don’t think we can live without consuming some things.  We just have to know what things are important and know if they really are important or just selfish.


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7 Responses to Can We Ever Stop Being consumers?

  1. Puny Human says:

    We’ve been set up to live inside of this quandary, right down to the food that we “consume” which was grown and planted a thousand miles away. My sneakers are still usable . . . but I sure would like an extra pair. My husband and I had a yen to visit the Keys, so we drove 2000 miles to get there and back, and boy, did I love those expensive coconut candies. The cell phone kept us in touch with the kids. I could go on, but you already said all this. We are children of our unique consumerist time and place, yet we are aware that there is another way to live, and I would exchange all the materialist perks I have for peace around the world and the elimination of starvation and the return to the garden earth . . . but I can’t make it happen, can I? By giving up these pleasures? I will die in this quandary. I don’t see the way out.

    • VNP says:

      I agree with you. It sounds a bit like “poor baby,” but we do live in a society that has raised us to be this way. Sure there are things we can do. I could have not bought that TV. My wife could have stayed home. I can choose to buy only local. The thing is, we put ourselves in a “hardship” state compared to the culture around us, and does that really do much good. Many of the changes that need to be made are on a scale much greater than the individual. Does that mean we should all be unthinking, uncaring slobs? No. It’s just that the problem is not that easy!

  2. Whenever my limo liberal guilt harshes my groove and becomes intolerable, I go shopping. Makes me feel much better and provides employment, contributes to the economy which helps the poor and hungry worldwide while the taxes paid fund research into renewable energy. In between times, I work out rationalizations for everything else I do! 😉

    I also try to keep in mind that nothing I do will make a rat’s ass worth of difference to anything or anyone fifty years from now, let alone a thousand or a million. Human history is but a flyspeck on the entirety of the all.

    • VNP says:

      I agree with you about buying helping, although I’m sure you meant it, at least partially, in jest. When we buy, we are stimulating the economy. Where I struggles is also where I disagree. What we do, does make an impact. Small, to be sure, but it does make a difference. If we all thought that whatever we do makes no difference and thereby did whatever we want, the world would soon be in terrible shape!

      • Oh, please don’t misunderstand: what everyone else does collectively adds up to some degree for some limited period of time (though ultimately is absolutely unimportant in the greater picture). But the effect I personally have will be negligible even in the short run. Me buying a new TV or taking a trip to Florida isn’t going to end the world. It certainly will not matter to me once I’m dead!
        And just in case you haven’t noticed, the world already is in terrible shape and has been ever since mankind became the dominant species. But that’s ‘terrible shape’ only from our perspective; ‘it’ is just a planet temporarily taking up space until its ultimate destruction over the course of the universe’s evolution. From that standpoint it doesn’t matter.
        We can’t harm something already on its way to doom, just hurry it along as far as its usefulness to us. The planet is ours for the taking, it’s just a shame that our technology evolved faster than our (I hesitate to say ‘spiritual’ but it will do) spiritual or compassionate social conscience and understanding of social consequences. Had our heads been in a different place before we acquired the ability to thoroughly rape the planet, overpopulate it to death, and fight over what should have been abundant resources, it could have been a pretty good place to live!
        Of course, it was mankind’s worst qualities which drove us to the point where we could do so much to make things so good for so many… We should rename this planet “Catch-22′!

        Without our consciousness here to observe, the world essentially would not even exist!

      • Puny Human says:

        Good discussion. Just wanted to add the title of a book I’m currently reading that addresses some of these issues. It’s titled “Consumed: How markets corrupt children, infantalize adults, and swallow citizens whole” by Benjamin Barber. The book won’t make a rat’s ass worth of difference (as All-Nudist so eloquently put it) but it gathers the evidence and makes an indictment. Best to all, Puny

  3. Tom says:

    The conundrum of the moment!

    I think it was John Michael Greer from whom I got this allegory. A grain truck spills in a meadow. The mice have a ball because the spilled grain supports a lot more mice than the meadow used to. Then the grain is gone, leaving zillions of starving mice.

    Howard Odum, in Energy Power and Society, sez resources almost force us to consume them. The “almost” qualification had to be important to Odum, because he didn’t write this long and difficult popularization of ecology for his health. We are humans, not mice.

    My answer is in Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Hardin’s bottom line is that counting on responsibility to create public goods will select for irresponsibility, and it is unfair to the members of a competitive economy not to stipulate (in other words, “legislate”) the behavior necessary for survival and prosperity.

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