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Mass consumption is not meeting our needs
After a trans-Pacific sailing trip from Australia to Hawaii via Japan, Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen declared “the ocean is broken.”
He encountered so much plastic debris he feared his boat would capsize, and observed an absence of bird life that had been so ubiquitous 10 years prior.
He realized the birds were missing because there were so few fish for them to eat, in part due to large commercial boats fishing for tuna leaving the by-catch to die on the decks of their large trawlers.
Daily on Facebook people are sharing news stories like Macfadyen’s, anecdotes about how consumerism is negatively affecting our world and our relationships.
We read British comedian Russell Brand’s editorial in his country’s New Statesman magazine about the disparity between the rich and the poor, and the affects the current political system has on the planet and its inhabitants.
There was an article about how chef Jamie Oliver isn’t allowing his children to use smartphones, and from that article you could link to a video of American comedian Louis C.K. talking about how we use smartphones to escape from feeling deeply happy or sad.
And there was an article about Mark Boyle, founder of the Free Economy movement, who gave up his 21st-century comforts to live without money for a year. Seven years later, he’s still living free because he’s happy.
While their observations and statements aren’t proven, it’s impossible not to engage with their stories. They hit on a point that is getting harder to ignore: our material world has done the opposite of what Madonna’s song lyrics promised it would. We aren’t happier for it; and greed and envy have done exactly what David Suzuki has been saying they would for the past 50 years: harmed Planet Earth.
It feels like we’re nearing a tipping point. That soon it will be socially unacceptable to buy fast fashion and fast food, and the majority of people will buy local, fresh, and handmade—especially people of means, which will reshape our economy and society into one that makes Planet Earth and us happy.
And yet, even with all this noise, and momentum seemingly moving towards a change in the zeitgeist, we are still behaving the same. We still buy throw-away t-shirts made in Bangledesh, we live in enormous houses, and we compost a third of the food we buy.
If Abraham Maslow were alive today, he would be disappointed in us. Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs, which suggests people can achieve self-actualization — your best you — if certain criteria are met sequentially. The first step of the hierarchy is about meeting basic physiological needs of shelter, access to food, and a functioning body. Most of us have met these needs, as well as those of the next step — security. But here we are stuck.
Our grandparents and parents lived in uncomfortable circumstances and were successful in building better lives for themselves and us, but not without a cost.
We have a chance to build on that success if the majority of us move beyond the focus on material growth towards loving relationships — step three of the hierarchy — which leads to greater self-esteem and respect of others, which ultimately leads to the best kind of society: one that encourages creativity, lacks prejudice, and promotes spontaneity.
When we buy new kitchen appliances to replace perfectly good ones, we are simply upgrading our basic needs. We are no closer to a better life. Christmas is coming. This year, let’s aim higher.
Maeve Maguire is a technical writer who lives and works in Maple Bay and writes monthly in the News Leader Pictorial. Visit her blog www.cowichandale.com, or email her at email@example.com.