As the U.S. recovers from the recession, we read encouraging reports about less unemployment and see statistics showing "growth" in the economy. The figures are up for new house sales, more orders for things like tractors, refrigerators and other large ticket items, and there’s an uptick in car and truck sales.
Consumer confidence is increasing and people are buying more. The bottom line is that our growth (GNP or gross national product) is a result of more products being sold.
As the economy grows, so too does our pile of “stuff,” both collectively and individually.
Is the only way for the economy to grow through the production, manufacture, distribution and sales of material goods? Where does all the old stuff go? What happens when the new stuff wears out? That shiny state-of-the-art refrigerator will not be state-of-the-art indefinitely.
Let’s say there’s a 1.3% (considered "anemic") growth rate this year, then 3% next year, then maybe a whopping 4% after that. We will be thrilled to hear that 4% won't we? But what does it get us besides more things made out of plastic, wood, metal, and more plastic? Where does it end?
What will our country look like in 100 years, or 50 years, with all these added houses, vehicles, appliances, plastic toys and things? Will the Grand Canyon be turned into a giant landfill?
KOMB articles typically focus on cleaning up the environment (specifically trash), promoting and encouraging recycling and recycling opportunities. We’ve written about repurposing items - other alternatives to throwing away no longer needed items - and teaching our children to be responsible Earth stewards. But something we haven't directly addressed before is our consumer-based culture.
The fewer things we as a culture and we as individuals buy, the less drain on natural resources, the less use of fuel and power to produce the goods, the fewer items to recycle and/or fill up our landfills. And, also the less clutter in our homes. But if we all buy less, does our economy come to a grinding halt?
Am I being unpatriotic if I suggest that we buy less? (By the way, I’m not proposing that we stop shopping for food or toilet paper.) Could there be a way for the economy to be healthy that doesn’t require the manufacture and production of more stuff?
I’m looking for ideas on the topic. If you would like to share your ideas and express your opinions on the questions and issues presented here, we invite you to make a comment on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/komb4emc) or write to us at email@example.com.