The Brief, Tragic Reign of Consumerism – and the birth of a happy alternative

Another awakening to degrowth? But without using “the D word” or offering any specific advice – at least in this article.

by Richard Heinberg, originally published by Post Carbon Institute | Jul 24, 2013

You and I consume; we are consumers. The global economy is set up to enable us to do what we innately want to do – buy, use, discard, and buy some more.

Consumerism also has a history, but not a long one. True, humans like all other animals, are consumers in the most basic sense, in that we must eat to live. Further, we have been making weapons, ornaments, clothing, utensils, toys, and musical instruments for thousands of years, and commerce has likewise been with us for untold millennia.

What’s new is the project of organizing an entire society around the necessity for ever-increasing rates of personal consumption…

A train wreck is foreseeable. No one knows exactly when the impact will occur or precisely how bad it will be… This should be news to nobody by now, as recent government and UN reports spin out the scenarios in ever grimmer detail: rising sea levels, waves of environmental refugees, droughts, floods, famines, and collapsing economies.

It is not too soon to wonder what comes after consumerism. If there is good news to be gleaned from the story just told, it is that this mode of economic existence is not biologically determined…

Perhaps the most promising clue comes from the emerging happiness movement… but the happiness movement cannot solve all our problems..

Treating consumerism as though it were merely an individual proclivity rather than a complex, interdependent system with financial and governmental as well as commercial components is both wrong and mostly ineffectual.

GNH (Gross National Happiness) or HPI may be effective packages in which to sell sufficiency to policy makers and citizens; they may also be pathways to a genuinely superior mode of human existence.

Read the entire article here

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