The Future of Consumption: Part II

If hyperconsumption represents one of our biggest problems, then what are some possible solutions? Part II of our special forum.


Over the past two weeks the MoJo Wire has hosted a forum on the Future of Consumption that’s explored rising trends of consumerism and commercialism in our society. (See last week’s introduction page for a complete overview of the forum and biographies of the participants.)

In Part II we focus on what the next steps might be. If “hyperconsumption” is such a problem, then what are some potential solutions? And what dangers do those potential fixes pose? Throughout this second part of the forum, we’ve excerpted readers’ contributions that we found particulary thought-provoking (click on the highlighted quotes to read these posts in their entirety). And, as always, we invite you to be a part of the discussion.

 

To: consumerforum@motherjones.com
From: eric_umansky
Subject: Searching for Solutions
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So where do we go from here—if we need to “go” anywhere at all?

The U.S. currently is the biggest contributor to the worlds CO2 emissions (about 25%). And it’s no coincidence that it’s also the biggest consumer society around.

Given that we’re currently a model in many ways for the developing world, what happens when the rest of the world starts catching up to us in terms of consumption per capita?

 

To: consumerforum@motherjones.com
From: bill_mckibben
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At Kyoto last week, Jose Figueres, president of Costa Rica, said that we need to find “a future which is not a continuation of the past,” “an age characterized not by the quantity of growth but by the quality of human development.” This does strike me as a suitable task for the time ahead, and if the rich people in this country—which are certainly the majority of us, in any historical or geographical comparison—can calm our own hyperconsumption a bit, we can help.

Economics makes for such short arguments. Every time I make a point about, say, the joylessness of Christmas, or the fact that my neighbors don’t have heat because they’re paying off the Sega debt, you say: If people didn’t like it, they wouldn’t do it. This seems to me to be something you could say about any addiction, or to use less loaded language, any enchantment. What I am trying to say is that many many people have had scant chance to experience much else other than our present hyperconsumer model of living, and that when they do have that chance they often enjoy it more.

I also think that even if this wasn’t true—even if endless shopping thrilled us beyond all telling—we might be wise to reconsider. There will soon be 9 billion people living on this planet. The thought that they will all manage to live like us is absurd; the fact that they will try hard to do so, and in the process join us in destroying the rest of creation, is the story of the 21st century.

Beautiful night in the mountains, time for a ski.

Bill McKibben

The Forum Part II: Searching for Solutions 1 2 3 4

The Forum Part I: Defining the Problem

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