Climate Crisis Journal: Conversion Campaign


Global Climate Change & The Hyper-consumption Treadmill

Richard Clark,

It is truly bizarre, when you stop to think of it, that most of us are working our butts off . . to help produce ever more goods and services, even though most of those goods and services would never be purchased---polls show---if well employed people had the option to work _only_ as much as they wanted (without jeopardizing their financial security).

Yes of course there are ever larger number of Americans (the bottom 40 or 50% of income receivers) whose wages have fallen so low that they can no longer even afford a decent place to live. So, yes, these folks would probably keep working the full number of hours they are currently working even if given the option to work less.

But what if significant numbers of these folks were given the opportunity to work directly on the provision of the housing, health care, and education they need---and were in turn allowed to have a fair and equal share of those basic products and services that they helped produce? Chances are, the very large majority of them would then be able to acquire decent housing in rather short order. This is certainly the lesson of organizations like Habitat for Humanity. In fact, it's been proven time and again that when provided with expert instruction, good tools, and a certain amount of supervision, the average person of very limited means can learn the art and craft of home repair and construction in fairly short order. In fact many thousands of houses in America and around the world have either been built from scratch, or completely refurbished, by people of very limited education who had no previous construction experience prior to getting involved in the programs which taught them the skills they needed and then provided them with the opportunity to cooperatively design and build.

Problem is that the number of people who have been permitted to engage in such opportunities is but an infinitesimally tiny fraction of the number of people who would jump at the chance to participate if given that chance. Primary result of this lack of opportunity: The need for affordable housing remains vastly larger than the supply of affordable housing. Secondary result: The quality of the housing that most Americans are forced to inhabit is slowly declining---as the median wage declines, and the cost of housing rises.

Tragically, instead of building the housing they need, most Americans are conned into assisting in the production of all manner of extraneous goods and services for which needs must be _created_ . . by a $200 billion per year advertising and marketing effort. So, even as Americans become ever more productive, in terms of how much product they can turn out in an hour's time, they are being conned into working ever longer hours to acquire the money to pay for housing of some given size and quality! And what (again) are they producing? For the most part it is superfluity, the production and ultimate disposal of which requires all manner of air and water pollution. The chemicals & materials to manufacture it, the chemicals & materials needed to package it, the fuel (and transport) to distribute it, and finally the fuel and incinerators needed to dispose of it---all of this adds to air and water pollution, as well as to global climate change.

Why global climate change? Because every time you burn anything you produce carbon dioxide. The more combustion, the more CO2. Not surprisingly, then, the percentage of this one gas, carbon dioxide, as a component of the various gases that make up the air we breath, has increased dramatically, at an ever accelerating pace, ever since the industrial revolution. The more fuel we burn (for energy, production, transportation), the more carbon dioxide we inadvertently pump into the atmosphere. This gas, along with various other exhaust gasses, contributes to the greenhouse effect, and gradually alters climate patterns. Not surprisingly then, the frequency of tornadoes, floods, and severe hurricane damage has increased by a factor of about five in the last couple of decades.

So isn't it rather absurd for us to spend ever longer hours continuing to produce all manner of superfluous crap that people must actually be conned into buying, by way of a $200 billion/yr multimedia advertising effort? Not only does it waste ever more of our precious time, it also wastes and helps destroy our precious environment.

What could be more absurd? With more leisure time, a shorter workweek, and more opportunities to work directly on the production of the things we basically need, we could dramatically reduce the extreme weather patterns and global climate change which will ultimately do horrific damage and cost us billions more than the superfluous products we labor so long to produce and sell. Do we really derive that much happiness from this growing glut of superfluous crap? I think not.

So for God's sake let's find a way to collectively step off the hyperproduction/hyperconsumption treadmill!

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