Consumerism and the Need for Equality

Hello to all my readers, and I hope you’ve all had a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. But what might that mean to a readership interested in Climate Change, Ecological Sustainability and Social Justice? As the crowds flock to the January Sales and enormous quantities of gifts were given at Christmas, many of us feel that this period of the year has become an epic festival of consumerism. Many of us in the Green movement have for long criticized this rampant consumerism and in turn often been criticized as kill-joy, hair-shirted environmentalists.
Perhaps we all already know that business as usual is not an option: we all need to change. Maybe a sustainable future doesn’t need to be as frugal and low tech as many Greens have long advocated. On the other hand a life ever more satiated with stuff clearly isn’t the root to greater happiness, as Oliver James’s book “Affluenza” wonderfully illustrates. The best hope it seems to me is for an evolution toward greater equality, thus reducing the insatiable desire for new stuff driven by status competition. “The Spirit Level” by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson brilliantly argues the benefits of greater equality within societies.
Annie Leonard has made a number of great video clips about consumer driven capitalism and the need for change. See the 21 minute “The Story of Stuff” here:
Capitalism and the retail industry has a very long way to go to become sustainable in ecological terms; but small changes are happening as this interesting article in the Guardian shows
The mid-winter break, Christmas and the New Year, is not all about consumerism. The other side of the coin is very much a positive one of sharing food and drink, good conversation and country walks with family, friends and neighbours. There is also a powerful tradition of helping the poor at this time of year. This surely is something we can all agree on, and celebrate together!