Thursday, September 21, 2006

In With the New ...

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

From Sierra Club Magazine:
John Perry, age 42
Founding member, the Compact

When John Perry and a few San Francisco friends created the Compact, a yearlong agreement not to buy anything new, they were just trying to take a personal stand against rampant consumption and waste. But as news of their idea spread, it drew more than a thousand participants worldwide--and some angry critics. Read about members' strategies and exemptions for essentials like food at The Compact.

Q: What do you make of the backlash you've received?

A: We've been told shopping is patriotic. Part of the promise of success in America is that you can buy lots of stuff.

Q: What's been hardest about living by the Compact?

A: I was a recreational shopper, especially in thrift stores. So it's been challenging to think about what I need instead of just shifting my consumption habits to secondhand goods.

Q: How has your family's daily life changed as a result?

A: We have more time and money to spend hiking, taking classes, going to performances, and eating with friends. Life gets richer and more oriented toward experiences.

How ridiculous is that? Spending is patriotic. We all remember after 9/11 -- our own president said that the way to get back at the terrorists is to keep on spending. That's the most profound lesson that he could get from that. Sad.

Is this group's choice an extreme reaction to our current society? Maybe. Is it harmful? No. Is it effective? Depends on what you call effective. I'm sure no companies are really feeling the squeeze from these few people not buying new goods. But it may not be in what these few people do but more in the effect they have on others. If just a few people read that article or if those 1,000 people tell their friends and families, it can have an effect on the environment and even on our views of each other. Gluttonous consumption would not be healthy even in a world of unlimited space and resources and no environmental problems. But that world doesn't exist.

We're a disposable society. Planned obsolescence. Fads. Ad-driven purchasing. Maybe if people looked a little harder at what they bought, companies that produced goods would care more about quality. So much of our time is spent shopping. We go to the malls just to walk around and look at things we want to buy. The people in this article are at least taking the time to stop and analyze our craziness. I'm not asking people to stop buying or stop buying new stuff. Just think about your individual footprint on the world. Do you want your legacy to be that you owned a lot of stuff?

"Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends.... Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts." -- Henry David Thoreau


Laura said...

Why would anyone care if someone, or even a group of people, swore off new stuff? Seriously - who cares!? We have been brainwashed into being good little consumers. Anyone who does not buy into that (no pun intended) is labeled as deviant.

CyberKitten said...

Not 'buying' into consumerism is questioning the very basis of Capitalism and is, in some peoples view points, a bad move. After all if people stopped buying so much stuff just where would it all lead....?

Unfortunately our societies are based on continued and growing consumerism. We all know it can't last forever but we are too afraid (or too brainwashed) to even *think* about what we are doing.

dbackdad said...

But that's the exact type of reaction you get ... especially out here if you try to do anything to help your world. Try to buy a hybrid car ... you must be some wacked out tree hugger. My parents have actually looked at me like I had a third eye or something when I say I try to always buy organic. They think I'm an absolute mutant for not shopping at Wal-Mart. People truly go through life just plopping down their dollars and not thinking in the slightest what it is going for or how the thing they are buying ended up in that store.

James said...

Love the Gandhi quote. He is one of my heroes. Right behind the Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh.