Recently, I wrote a few pieces around the concept, “The New Living Large Is Living Small.” The concept suggests that society will experience significant upheaval when it becomes “cool” to be “green.” I don’t want to over-aggrandize the importance of my idea here, but I wonder if a modest “movement” couldn’t take place around this notion.
Adult Americans consume an average of about 2500 calories endosomatically (into the body) every day, but we use about 230,000 (almost 100 times that much) with all the other stuff we have around to add convenience to our lives: big cars, huge houses with perfect indoor temperatures, etc.
A few basic points:
1) It wasn’t that long ago that most of this excess didn’t exist – even for the wealthy few. If we wanted work done, we did it ourselves. We didn’t resent a hard day’s work; in fact, we cherished it.
2) This trend isn’t sustainable. A growing population simply cannot live much longer on a planet running out of oil and other resources, while choking, poisoning, bombing, and otherwise ruining itself in the process.
3) Perhaps most importantly, we weren’t really that miserable without all this over-consumption. When I was a small boy half a century ago, I played outside, even in the cold winters, and I had a truly terrific childhood! My friends and I burned a bunch of calories, and they didn’t come from the processed garbage sold in today’s grocery stores. We had almost no childhood obesity, and the rate of other diseases among kids was near zero.
If there is something of a “movement” here, i.e., if a significant number of people start to look past the thin veil of materialism and begin to see their lives in grander terms, it will come despite the immense power of modern consumer marketing, whose goal is to convince us that we’re inadequate as people if we don’t get that big car, big house, or latest gadget. In fact, we’re bombarded with these messages at every turn — thus the utter brilliance of the videos at The Story of Stuff.org.
Let’s acknowledge that it will be an uphill battle. But I’m wondering if I don’t see a recent change in consumer tastes in this direction. There are many reasons that I don’t drive a 5800-pound Cadillac Escalade or 6600-pound Hummer, or some equally ridiculous car, but one of them is that I don’t want to be on the receiving end of the contemptuous glares of a growing number of people communicating, “We all need to share this planet. You obviously didn’t get the memo on this, did you?”
The trip back toward normalcy won’t be that terrible; trust me.