Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

April 27, 2007

Are we consuming our way out?

I am, by my very nature, the type of person that will always look at a problem and try to find the way to fix it. I do this at home when my kids are fighting, or when my wife is struggling with something. I do it throughout the day both in my job as a web developer and in a hundred other circumstances when I see some problem that I determine needs a solution. This may be something as simple as finding some creative way of watering my cubicle plants, or something as complex as coming up with a new design for a wind turbine with less blade span that I could use at my suburban home. At any rate this natural tendency more often that not manifests itself in some creation or device. Because of this, I think, I am very prone to looking at our forthcoming problem with energy dependence or more to the point lack of energy independence as a “problem” that can be mitigated through Energy Efficient (EE) devices, alternative power sources, and or bio-fuels and the like. Now granted, these are all great alternatives, and we at our house have begun to move in that direction. But do they really address the issue? I read an article today that struck me as very balanced; it made some very interesting points and led me to think about some of my views.
The crux of the article as I saw it was that while we continue to focus on the new and improved, EE, and alternative ways of doing things we lose focus on some of the most elemental things that everyone can do to become more responsible (Ref. this blog entry to get an idea of where I come down on environmental responsibility. I know my views will be contrary to many of yours; I’m not trying to change your mind, just let you know what’s in mine.). Things like reducing our personal level of consumption, giving second lives to things through creative reuse, and recycling our resources. One of the points of the article that struck me was this:

“Enter big enviro telling people that excessive consumption is not bad at all because it gives the consumer the ability to affect change with purchasing power. The erudite techno-magician waves his wand, uttering ‘Don’t look at the mounds of discarded junk that go into landfills. Look over here at the fabulous eco-gadgets of our corporate friends.’”

This made me look at a long held position of mine. As I mentioned on the Earth Day Blog that I put up, I think it is a good thing for large retailers like Wal-Mart to be making efforts to bring “Greening” to the public consciousness. I still believe this to be true. I do however have to revisit my idea of a consumer driven movement towards self sufficiency.
We humans as a species have faced other obstacles to our survival in the past. As we continued to thrive and multiply, we began to have problems hunting or gathering all of the food stuffs that we needed from nature. So we manipulated them to our advantage; read industrial agri-business. This did solve the problem with starvation, but in my opinion changed the quality of the food, and vastly altered the face of the landscape; neither for the better. My point of this digression is that are we poised to do the same again? If we focus solely on EE appliances, and alternative means of replacing our energy, does that really do anything for the problem? We are still consuming at the same rate. I don’t believe that we should, as a populous, leave our city living ways and move to the country to return to a village centered way of life (although for some that wouldn’t be so bad…*wink*.). But I do think we can definitely look at our patterns of consumption and see where we can improve on that before trying to just find a quick technology solution. I’m not going to send my ’87 Toyota to the scrap heap for a new hybrid just to save a few miles to the gallon if you know what I mean. Give the article a read if you have the time, and share your opinions.
‘Til next time.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

I think part of the problem with our consumption is that it takes so much power to maintain it and the ecological footprint from it is so big, that it's difficult to see a future, in the near term, in which renewable energy sources are enough to maintain it. I was also reading an article in Mother Jones that I thought was interesting. The gist of it was that not only is our current level of consumption not good for us, it is also not making us happier and may in fact be making us less happy. It is a bit long, but definitely worth the read.