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Archive for the ‘consumer culture’ Category

It used to be that frugal cheapskates like us were the odd ones out.   Now we’re trendy.  And we have a historian.

Could we actually be on the cusp of a new era of living sustainably and within our means?  Let’s hope.

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Fans of living for reasons other than shopping — among which we include ourselves  — are enjoying the curent swathe of commentary addressing (finally!) the problem of how to create an economic recovery that’s also sustainable.

So we have Douglas Coupland worrying in a slightly incoherent fashion about what we will all come to in the Times.  Benjamin Barber in the Nation, though, is a lot more cogent on the subject.

James Kunstler imagines us entering the era of ‘yard-sale nation’ – a happy prospect for those of us who love nothing more than bargain hunting among our neighbors’ left-overs.  Kunstler’s vision is pretty dark, though.  The comments to the version of his article posted at Alternet (linked to above), however, offer a few rays of hope.

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Lots to share all of a sudden:

Need a little perspective on ‘the new frugality‘?

Everyone has high hopes for Obama’s ‘green team.’

Also from the NY Times, a spotlight on a cult eco-novel that predicted the ‘locavore‘ movement — as well as the succession of the Pacific states from the Union!

Sign a petition to persuade President-elect Obama that we need a sustainable agricultural policy.

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We managed to avoid shopping for the last two days.  But then we also missed the fact that yesterday was officially Buy Nothing Day.  It’s a much bigger day in the UK, it seems.

The American campaign runs the day before — the so called ‘Black Friday’ after Thanksgiving.  Even if there’s a reason for this classic case of American exceptionalism, we’re not sure it’s such a good idea.  There’s overwhelming pressure in the US media on the day after Thanksgiving to talk positively about retail that day.  Would the Buy Nothing message win more converts, perhaps, if it hit the day after?  In the calm after the shopping frenzy, after all, people might be ready to reflecting on the real value of their day of binge shopping.

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Or so Honda would have you believe.  Their newest Lexus campaign hitchhikes upon positive environmental developments in the world and links them to the latest Lexus hybrids.

An ad for the campaign — built around the slogan ‘Good things are happening today’ — in this month’s Wired features four newspaper clippings.  Two herald advances in environmental science, another trumpets a deal to preserve a part of the Amazon basin and the last is one of the many recent reports documenting the rise in popularity of guerilla gardening.  ‘The same spirit that drives these,’ says the ad of the news reports, ‘drives these,’ meaning the new autos, one of which has a base retail price of $105,000.

Nice try.  And, sure, hybrids are better than non-hybrids.  But it’s a mighty jump from greening blighted urban landscapes at the cost of a pack of seeds to gathering, shipping and processing the enormous volume of materials that go into even the greenest of cars.

It reminds us, as we’ve said before, that the greenest form of consumption is to avoid consuming wherever possible.

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Every US newspaper, magazine or website with anything resembling a ‘home’ section these days has been suddenly won over, it seems, to the cause of frugality.  And of course it meshes nicely with the living-green trend they’ve all been pushing for a while now.

We welcome this, naturally, but wonder if the virtues of reducing, reusing and recycling will still be so widely extolled once advertisers start raising their ad buys again.

Still, for now, the idea of living for something other than pure consumption is getting some airtime, for which we are grateful.  Here are two recent dispatches from the trend-face:

While the New York Times today ponders the confusions we all face when we really start trying to save money (like figuring out how far to drive for the sake of a bargain or whether buying in bulk at Costco really makes sense), there’s a far more radical solution at hand.

Vermonter Jim Merkel manages to live on just $5,000 a year — a level that means he doesn’t even pay federal taxes.  That’s an added plus for the weapons engineer turned pacifist who didn’t want to pay for US weapons programs anymore.  Truly a model for all us EarthQuakers, too.

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We must restructure our economy from a foundation built on consumption to regeneration and maintenance,” say Rebekah and Stephen Hren in the Huffington Post this week.

It’s a plea for ‘ecological economics’ — and one we EarthQuakers pretty much share.

Any hope it will come with the Obama administration?  Not a huge amount, but we might move a hair in that direction and that momentum — such as it is — may actually be something to build on.  EarthCare, Sustainabilty, Stewardship, Ecological Economics: we’re at least now putting names to visions that don’t so much want to do away with conventional global corporate capitalism as radically refine it.

If we can just get economists to add environmental impacts when they calculate costs, for example (and it’s insane that governmental economists, at least, don’t do that when they consider policy alternatives), we’d be a long way towards an economics of regeneration.  There would be new corporate winners and losers for sure, but the capitalist system wouldn’t need to end while the planet and its people would sure reap the benefit.

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