The Scale of Consumerism

Last week the concept of under and over consumers was brought to light.  This was related and discussed through the topics of fashion and sustainability as well as the contradicting view of poverty’s relation to environmental degradation.  Before I get to that though, I wanted to take a second to chit-chat on consumerism.  Now I’m no professional on the subject, and I certainly don’t have my PhD, so whether I’m able to speak on the matter is questionable.  However, I will give it my best shot.  

When I think of the realm of consumerism I instantly bounce to the thought, or movie of my head, of my experience in malls.  I used to beg my mom to take me shopping.  I would go to the mall and see all those older than me thinking how cool they were.  They had a ‘look’ about them that embodied the essence of a grown up.  My ten year old self dreamed of becoming that older girl who embodied a way about her that others would be able to recognize in a similar fashion to what I had of said other girls.  I remember trying to convince my mom that I needed to shop at J.Crew as I was peaking my existence of middle school.  I was buying item after item of random, uncoordinated pieces just for the trill or the chance to be that older person.  I would then be racked with guilt two months later when I realized I had only worn the item once and already wanted to give it away.  What was I thinking?  A middle schooler, buying things way out of my price range, and not even wearing it!!!  This mindset, the thought we concoct in our heads, of being this other person, of attempting to buy a new personality…now that’s the culture of an over consumer: buying to the point of unnecessity.  Now that I’m older, I rarely go to the mall, and when I do I find myself buying nothing, for I have learned how to better distinguish what is in a sense ‘needed’ at the moment.  It’s sad though, for my online habits have a crushing evil about them that feed my guilt of overconsumption and environmental waste.  Wow, got on a bit of a tangent.  

Basically, I just wanted to get at the fact that so often in the over consumer sphere, we, or maybe it’s just me, tell ourselves that if we just get this one thing somehow our world will change for the better, or there will be some exacerbated self–fulfillment that comes about.  The sad thing is, this is so false and entirely wrong.  This mindset is one of the key principles discussed in Walker’s Fashion and Sustainability.  The term aesthetic obsolescence is particularly mentioned to define how there is a continual updating of what is fashionable, hence the word fashion.  

This brings me to tangent number two.  Growing up I was determined to be the next

Tory Burch, a high end designer who would be leading the fashion industry.  Now at the time I was caught in the Tory Burch craze where everyone had those flats and black purses and thought they were the coolest things since packaged bread.  However, as aesthetic obsolescence goes, what is popular one year isn’t the next.  

It wasn’t until recent that I craved a more sustainable path, one that wasn’t interested in a name or raising stock prices, but one that was interested in the effect of the environment.  I want to create something that is efficient, yet doesn’t deplete or act as an “impediment to sustainability.”  Walker mentions bogus values, concernment of material wealth, and desire for profit.  Maybe we should consider something that uses creativity, through many trials and constant refinement to improve the issue of sustainability, all of which is to be designed with humility knowing it won’t work in the future.  In the Uglies, Pretties, Specials and so on series of novels, I was fascinated with the idea of clothes that were made right when you requested, and decomposed when thrown on the floor.  This type of decomposition is instant and removes the long standing waste by dealing with it right away.  

Moving onto the under consumers.  It’s funny how our outlets change as we grow older.  When I was growing up, yes it’s another one of these stories, I viewed my dad to be the ultimate under consumer.  I mean, if you can just envision the word ‘frugal’ as a person, it was my dad.  He never bought anything, and pretty much only wore scrubs and the free t-shirts he got for running marathons.  As I’ve aged, my view of being well off yet frugal and not having the ability to spend money morphed as a genre of under consumer.  My dad always spoke of how the poor were poor because they did that to themselves, how it was their fault and while we ought to keep an eye, we shouldn’t necessarily help them out.  My mother’s view was a little different though.  In Taylor’s argument on Is poverty responsible for global environmental degradation?, my eyes were opened more to the side of my mothers.  My mother grew up with nothing, so perhaps she is more understanding of what that’s like.  I always admire her for tipping when she gets coffee, or always giving Christmas gifts to the dedicated men who tend our flowers and grass as well as those who bravely take on the trash.  She is so willing to work along-side them and support them rather than just separate them as a category.  I mean this not as harsh but more as fact.  People have views of such.  Those seen as poor, or the poverty group, should be working with not just seen as a burden that needs tending.  The government ought to co-manage, as one example, as a means to get things done.  Perhaps is we were to start at a local level as the basis things would be better done.  Wealth is important, but people’s motivation and acceptance to work together is really what will change the environment.

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