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Buy nothing for a better tomorrow

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 15, 2007


For those of you not paying attention Western Civilization is little more than a garage sale at the center of suck. Maintained by unending consumption, nothing is safe from the devouring beast of human avarice and appetite. Our consumption oriented, market-based civilization is a threat to biodiversity and ecological equilibrium. Perhaps this wasn't always the case, but what was should not be mistaken for what is.

And Western civilization is completely out of control. Assuming it was ever in.

Everywhere you look there's evidence that things are coming apart at the seams. Whether it be perpetual warfare in the Middle East, global deforestation, shrinking ice caps, water shortages, toxic toys, mountains of waste, or the obesity epidemic, all signs point to catastrophe.

Recognizing that you're on the the road to ruin is one thing, coming to terms with how you're getting there and who's doing the driving is the hard part. The answers are hardly flattering.

Sure it's easy to point fingers and place blame. Delusion, denial and downright lying have been re-branded as patriotism by the Bush Administration. It's the new American way.

Environmentalists have many issues. Polar bears and primates are just the tip of the melting iceberg. On the surface it's easy to blame multinational corporations for the awful state we are in. We could also blame "Big Media" and the Military industrial complex. Some even blame religion. I blame capitalism and the consumer mindset that more is always better.

With all due respect to those fighting the good fight in Northern Californian tree sits, on the High Seas protecting marine mammals, and those protesting dirty wars for dirty fuels; the front line battle ground of ecological sustainability will be lost or won in the urban/suburban marketplace.

Overconsumption is as big a problem as overpopulation, and neither can be maintained much longer. Nearly every environmental issue impacting humans today can be traced back to anthropocentric belief systems that view planet earth as an all you can eat buffet.

The revolution begins with restraint. For the sake of longevity people must reassert themselves as citizens first and consumers second. Change will only come when people put down the plastic and stop buying stuff they don't need, can't afford, and would be better off without. Regardless of what Madison Avenue and corporate America want you to think, keeping up with the Jones' is a race no one can win.

One of my favorite holiday rituals is the collective protest against the unrelenting calls to over-consume. Known as Buy Nothing Day, in North America BND is traditionally held on the last Friday of November, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally one of the most important shopping days of the year. Elsewhere in the world BND is held on the last Saturday of November when activists urge and provide people with a period of respite, a pause for reflection from the incessant rigors of the consumption economy.

Simplicity is the new gluttony. Buy nothing for a better tomorrow.


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