Activism or Activity?

Mainstream consumers are intellectually informed, but not emotionally engaged in the discourse on the consumer economy, nor are they translating these messages into lifestyle changes.

Let’s just let that marinate for a minute.

Upon reading Fashion and Sustainability Design for Change that was the one quote that stuck. I can learn and learn and learn as many statistics and projections about deforestation and watch countless documentaries about the rapidly decreasing ice caps. I can read the results of water pollution levels and the decay of the coral reef. I can even hear the tally of ozone alert days in a single summer and see the proof of a year-long drought. All of those things can equate to an abundance of knowledge however, it can mean absolutely nothing if I don’t have a personal reaction to it. It is meaningless book-filler if I don’t put it into action.


“…20% of the world’s populations consumes 80% of the Earth’s natural resources.

Again, let’s let this sink in.

I cannot speak for other cultures and societies but I must agree that America’s is one of ‘consume, consume, consume!’ And, because having the same thing as your neighbor is not acceptable, there will be more options than you know what to do with. It is almost incomprehensible how many different brands and flavors of potato chips there are alone! Seriously, there is an entire aisle devoted to them at the store. Now take that variety of just ONE item that we may/may not consume and multiply that by the millions of different categories that span our vast consumption each day. Even as I am saying this and having to think about the numbers alone I have a very difficult time connecting to the reality of it. Logically and intellectually I know these harsh realities yet I cannot seem to summon an emotional reaction to it.

Just as nutrients in the soil become depleted by industrial agriculture’s sole focus on higher yields, so human emotional and psychological stocks are depleted by the dominant cultural pursuit of growth for growth’s sake.”

Let’s bring this up to a simmer.

I feel so immersed in my consumeristic culture that there seems to be some kind of barrier or insulator around me. It’s as if my brain is so set in what is the “norm” to me that anything that would challenge that is seen as an outside threat and is defeated before it can even defend its reasoning.  I fall prey to the schemes marketers play to increase sales and persuade brand loyalty (although I am not entirely faithful to brands. I am married to a few and a mistress to others).

We do not often think of going to the poorest, most neglected corners of the earth to learn about the lives of people who have fallen out of the system, but this is where we may find globally applicable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”

Now coming to a boil.

I am truly inspired by the article “Change by Design.” I think this is one of the best examples of empathetic designs. They actually went to a different part of the globe to experience life in all of its non-glory, stepping outside of their comfort zones and conveniences. They were willing to look beyond all of the marvelous technologies that surrounded them and embrace a simpler yet more complicated way of living. Evaluating processes and devising alternate solutions to common problems faced by the native people. I question my own creativity to do that. I would only look at their problems and think of the remedies I have back home to fix them. I think it takes a huge amount of wisdom to come up with simple solutions.

How often can, do we say that an “under-developed” country has it more together than we do? Well the answer is never. We would never say that because our pride would never allow us to make such a mutinous, blasphemous statement. Wouldn’t that belittle all of the accomplishments and progress we have made thus far?

Can you imagine the backlash and bloodbath that would ensue if such a statement were to be made? What if THE ANSWER was to consume less? Our entire economy would collapse, thus causing mass chaos. Neighbors would form clans and establish new monarchies. Money would be a thing of the past so that the new currency would be baseball trading cards. Banks would become brothels and restaurants would probably still remain restaurants because we would still need to eat. Wars would be waged from clan to clan promising blood baths over signed sports paraphernalia and exclusive Christmas ornaments. Diseases would no longer be treated because the kings and queens of the numerous newly established clans would view medicine as witch craft and that would cause diseases to mutate. Mutated viruses that would infect millions upon millions would essentially turn the population into zombies craving only two things: brains and cock roaches. The diseases would spread creating more and more zombies until no one was left thus eliminating the human race permanently. The End.

Ok, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But that’s how it is viewed when any for-profit company does not increase its numbers from the previous. How much more must we consume in order to stay stable? It sounds weird to phrase it like that, right? Consuming more simply to stay the same.

“… ‘developed nations’ may be getting richer, they are generally not getting happier.”

All that I am learning in this class is fantastic! It is pushing me and my preconceived notions of what consumerism is and what environmentally friendly means. It is broadening my horizons and giving me wonderful dinner conversation topics (which my family actually hates and when I bring it up on the phone I can hear their eye rolls). But I still find myself with this huge gap. There seems to be this black hole between my knowledge, what little there is, of sustainability and my daily practices of sustainability. I can best describe it with the differences in an activity and being active. I, for now, partake in the activity of sustainability. I take the class. I talk about it with friends. I read stories on the internet that pop up on social media or popular searches on google. But I am not active. I do not actively practice sustainability. I rarely check myself buying extra things at the supermarket because I am so susceptible to the obnoxious marketing and merchandising displays that plague our daily environment. I still enjoy by longer than necessary showers that I consider a waste of time if the water is not hot enough to boil my blood.

I wish there was a magic button to push that could connect the dots…. Much like the Staples “that was easy” button. I know that extending my sustainable activities into sustainable activism is going to take work. It’s a very organic way of life, meaning that it is constantly changing and evolving. I am human and will never have all of the answers but it is part of the journey.

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1 Response to Activism or Activity?

  1. Dr. Cosette Armstrong says:

    An exceptional blog and a fun read!

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