“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
The so-called ‘consumer culture’ of today is a recently ‘socially engineered’ value system that manipulates people’s egos and promotes a misguided belief that the more ‘money and stuff‘ you own, the happier you will be and the greater your importance in society. A bumper sticker seen in New York expresses this materialistic mindset very well. It says: “He who dies with the most toys – wins”.
While this sticker is meant to be funny, it does reflect how successful this manipulative social engineering has been in convincing people that money and material assets are the most important things in life. And as a result too many people today measure their worth and their level of success simply in terms of the quantity of money and stuff they own and consume.
Such a superficial and un-thinking value system has been seriously harmful for both people and planet because this drives an insatiable desire to convert as much of the Earth’s natural resources into money and material assets – as quickly as possible.
As a result, we are now consuming and converting the Earth’s natural resources – faster than the Earth can recover or reproduce.
This is effectively an act of slow suicide on our part as the process of destroying and converting our natural resources into consumer products and financial assets is damaging the quality of our air, water, and soil and causing climate change. The simple fact is that the more consumer goods we demand, the more we destroy the Earth and generate climate change. This is brilliantly illustrated in the YouTube video “The Story of Stuff” – see link at the end of this Blog.
Instead of this self-destructive, materialistic value system, we can derive great pleasure by looking beyond money and material assets to appreciate and enjoy the more refined and more mature ‘human qualities’ and our ‘intellectual assets’ including: intelligence; creativity; culture; compassion; elegance; leadership; and a person’s contributions to the community they live in. These quality-based virtues and intellectual assets build and strengthen us as individuals, are supportive to our communities; are sustainable in terms of the Earth and its ecosystems and finally – this is a more mature and intelligent way to measure a person’s real worth to society.
It will also be beneficial to apply a qualitative value system to our consumer choices.
When we recognise that the quality of a product is as important (if not more) than the quantity of product produced, this will have a powerfully positive effect on the way that manufacturers and retailers produce and deliver consumer products. Manufacturers will be motivated to design them to last longer, which will reduce the overall amount of resources and energy used up in the process of creating a product and delivering it to us.
Take for example a pen. Without any focus on quality, it is OK to use dozens of cheap disposable pens each year, every year. Each one uses up a quantity of natural material and requires an amount of energy to manufacture it, package it, and deliver it. In contrast, if our focus is on quality, we would buy a pen of higher quality designed to last many years or even a lifetime. Such a higher quality pen would be:
- Only manufactured once (= savings of natural resources + energy).
- Packaged only once (= further savings of energy + resources).
- Delivered to the point of sale only once (= saving fuel and reducing pollution).
All these savings add up to a considerable reduction in the use of the Earth’s natural resources and a reduction of pollution and climate change producing emissions.
The same applies to most other consumer products. Fewer but higher quality products could potentially produce better employment, income and profit opportunities than masses of cheap, low-quality products.
Significant revenue and profits can be made in producing, servicing, maintaining, and repairing higher quality products and in finding innovative ways to upgrade facelift and re-skin these products. This shift could:
- Increase customer satisfaction and pride in owning a high-quality product.
- Generate jobs to repair service and maintain these products.
- Reduce the amount of the Earth’s natural resources used in manufacturing, packaging, distributing and delivering products to consumers.
- Reduce the amount of energy used.
- Reduce the amount of waste.
Thus going for quality instead of quantity in our consumer goods can be beneficial to people, planet and profits.
The next step in promoting an ethical consumer value system is to actively use your consumer power to influence the behaviour of those that manufacture and distribute our consumer products.
If a company sees their market share and sales volumes increasing because their product is more eco-friendly and socially responsible, they will be financially motivated to increase their expenditure on being more eco-friendly and socially responsible. This will have a quicker and more effective influence on the way manufacturers and retailers do or do not harm our Earth, than any moral argument or legal imperative.
The key driving force here is you – you have ‘the power of the purse’ – so use it by becoming an ‘Eco-Ethical’ consumer.
Look for products and suppliers that demonstrate that they do care for ‘People and Planet’ and avoid those that are purely ‘profit-driven’ who show no signs of social responsibility or any consideration for the Earth and our natural resources.
- A quantity-based consumer culture drives a rapid depletion of the Earth’s natural resources
- A conscious ethical and quality based consumption:
- Reduces the quantity of the Earth’s natural resources that we use
- Supports our more mature and refined human qualities and builds our intellectual capabilities that improve and add to the wellbeing of both people and planet.
A young child has difficulty in ‘delaying gratification’ – they want it all NOW!
That is classical ‘short term thinking’ (the opposite of long term or ‘Sustainable thinking’)
So why are we allowing our political and business leaders to behave like children? In our next Blog we will look at the concept of ‘Sustainability’.
Link: “The story of stuff”.