Tessa Schlesinger is an ardent minimalist, convinced it is the only way to combat climate change in a world gone mad with consumerism.
Too Much Production and Too Much Consumerism Lead to Pollution
There's an over-used cliche that says "Everything happens for a reason." And so it does. Every action and reaction in the eco-system on our planet happens for a reason. The sea has tides as a result of the moon's gravitational pull. A volcano erupts because the lava underneath has become too pressured to remain below. An undersea earthquakes drives a tsunami, and so it goes.
In the same way, climate change is happening as the result of of a variety of actions on earth. Unless we know what those actions are, we cannot prevent further climate change.
We all know that treating the symptom and not the cause of an illness does not fix the disease. The leading cause of excess carbon dioxide and methane in the air is production of particular products. The leading cause of pollution is also production of particular products as well as over production of most products. Both production and over production are the result of business seeking profit. Business succeeds in profit making by encouraging excessive consumerism through advertising and marketing.
Let’s take the fashion industry, for instance. Viscose (Rayon) is an amazing fabric. It is soft and silky, and it’s a ‘natural’ fabric in that it is made from wood. Howver, in converting the wood into fabric, the process is so deadly that the production of it was banned in America and most western countries. Instead, those countries now import that fabric, and consumers (including me) love it.
"Chemicals used in viscose production include carbon disulphide, a powerful solvent linked with serious health conditions, most notoriously its capacity to cause insanity. Large quantities of sodium hydroxide, or caustic soda, are also used in processing. This chemical is highly toxic if absorbed through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact. It is known to cause corrosion, skin burns and eye damage. Chemicals used in viscose production include carbon disulphide, a powerful solvent linked with serious health conditions, most notoriously its capacity to cause insanity. Large quantities of sodium hydroxide, or caustic soda, are also used in processing. This chemical is highly toxic if absorbed through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact. It is known to cause corrosion, skin burns and eye damage." Source.
Production and Consumerism are Creating Excessive Pollution Which is Driving Climate Change.
The leading reason for the Great Depression in the twenties was the over-production of goods. About 75% of the population was rural and had little need or desire for the many goods that were being produced by industry. This meant that there was no market for the goods being produced which ultimately led to business going bankrupt.
Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, realized that the human brain believed everything it was told if it was told it sufficiently enough times (repetition). We all know that learning by rote (repetition) makes us remember things. However, Bernays realized that repetition also made us believe things. He taught this methodology to Hitler and other leading figures of the time.
"There were too many goods. In the 1920s, the economy was booming. Companies built new factories and hired more workers. Soon companies were making more products than they could sell. When the Great Depression started, companies had to lay off workers and halt production. This had a negative affect across the entire economy." Source.
Bernays also convinced business that if they used radio and television to tell the general public about products repeatedly, then the products would be bought. Business would never need to fear going out of business again. Profit would be guaranteed. Thus advertising and marketing was born.
How effective is repetition? Every wondered why all religions insist that one attends services? It’s because when humans hear the same thing over and over again, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, they will believe what is taught. This is an evolutionary mechanism — the way the human brain evolved.
The result is that people are buying so many goods that their garages are full of excessive products. When the garage overflows, they build barns in their backyards, and when that gets too much, the goods eventually find their way to landfills. Landfills are also one of the leading causes of pollution. It is pollution which leads to climate change.
"Bernays acquired an impressive list of clients, ranging from manufacturers such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and the American Tobacco Company, to media outlets like CBS and even politicians such as Calvin Coolidge." Source.
Business and the Drive for Profit
Two factors need to be covered here, but before I do, I want to do away with the perception that greed is driving profit. There are causes for greed, and that is my first point.
Most human beings look for acceptance and admiration of who they are. In order to achieve both acceptance and admiration, people will pursue those things which society, as a whole, admires. When the ultimate source of admiration is money and fame, then those who desire acceptance and admiration most will pursue money and fame at all costs.
The underlying motivation for excessive profit is not greed — it is the deep consuming need for more and more admiration and acceptance by peer groups.
Society needs to change its focus of admiration to those who have good character, not those who have a lot of money.
The second factor in the drive for excessive profits is a change that came about in the philosophy behind business in the 80s (the yuppie era). “The business of business is business.” Business students were taught that business had no business looking playing their part in the social contract, and that their only responsibility was the pursuit of profit for the benefit of the owners and the shareholders.
Ultimately this meant that it was acceptable to pollute rivers, lie to consumers, underpay employers, overcharge on products, and more. There is an unending river of negative effects as a result of this philosophy of business, but for the purposes of brevity, only the highlights are mentioned.
Too Many People and Too Many Products
The earth is a closed system. There is only so much gold, so much land, so much water, and there is no unending supply as some would have you believe. Some beliefs end in death and extinction, and this is one of them.
Combining overpopulation with over production as led to a situation where our resources are nearing depletion and there will be nothing left for our children’s children. Mars is not an option. It no more provides the resources needed than earth will when it becomes depleted.
Sustainability is only possible for those items that reproduce themselves fairly quickly — generally plant and animal life. Inanimate matter does not reproduce. It takes a million years to change dead foliage into oil. Once it is gone, it is gone for good.
Using and Producing Less is the Only Way We can Protect Our Environment
Make no mistake, the planet does not need saving. We do. Our planet will go on living long after we are gone. The planet does not need the kind of air that human beings need to survive. The planet does not need food to survive. The earth does not need fresh water to drink. It will be here whether its oceans are filled with sulphuric acid and bug-eyed monster or not. The planet does not need saving. It is human life and other lifeforms that need saving. In order to do that, we need our planet to have the same climate it does now. We need to be able to grow the same food, have the same water, etc. that has been necessary for us for millions of years. We simply cannot breathe methane, eat arsenic, or drink sea water.
High-tech minimalism in which we have less, but which affords us more sophistication and functionality in our lives, is the answer. Rather than each of us owning a car, we can have a high-tech, fast public transport system that takes us anywhere fast. A great example is rather than having a camera, a music system, a landline, a calculator, a language translator, a library of books, we have a smartphone. That is an example of high-tech minimalism. There are areas, of course, where we will simply have to do with less. Instead of having new, fashionable items of clothing every season (four times a year), how about items of clothing made to last for a decade?
Of course, this means that there will be far less production of goods — something which is essential for the survival of our environement. Consequently, there will be far less business and far less profit. It is for this reason that a Universal Basic Income needs to become part of our economic system. We need to rethink what we actually need to survive and live well. We need a new economic system that conserves our minerals and metals, and that produces products that are not only sustainable, but which do not harm our environment.
Why Destroy Our World for the Sake of Stuff, Status, Profit or Power?
I’ve been privileged to travel and live in many cities and countrie in the world. Why are we out to destroy this beautiful world we live in?
Part of the answer is status. Alain de Botton, a British philosopher and author, has spoken and written about status anxiety. It is the driving force in about 98% of humanity. We don’t intentionally want to destroy our world. Just most of us want to be more important than we are. So we seek higher and higher status. This is what is behind the drive for power and money. This is why we want a bigger house, a more expensive car, wear the latest fashions, and more.
Why is status so important to us? I don’t personally know the answer to that. I just know that the status aspect is enormous for most people as I read and research a lot. I don’t particularly care about status for myself. I know that I’m unimportant, and that I’m nothing more than a microbe in the world. Status is the driving force for people like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and/or Michael Dell. They cannot bear to lose their position as the richest people in the world.
So, for the sake of status, we are destroying our environment. I, personally, would like to believe that somewhere down the line I have great, great grandchildren. It also makes me sad to think that our species will come to an end because we will harm the eco-system and environment so badly that we cannot survive anymore.
Jared Diamond has written a book or two about the collapse of various nations. They just disappeared because they destroyed their own environment. Easter Island is an example.
So I say again. Our world is so beautiful. Why would we destroy it for the sake of stuff, profit, status, and ego?
We Need to Appreciate the Beauty of Our World and Protect it From the Ravages of Consumerism and Profit
Steps We Can Take to Protect Our World
There are several things we can do right now to get us moving in the right direction.
- Join or start an activist group to make public transport so good that nobody needs personal transport.
- Move to a small home or convert existing homes into a semi so that more than one family can live there.
- Grow our own vegetables so that we can stop depending on big-agriculture. We’ll save money as well. Small portable vertical gardens can become part of your kitchen. Invest in a neighborhood pink light vertical farm to supply suburb with food.
- Study minimalism and see how to cut down on the use of too many products.
- Give away or sell what we don’t need.
- Switch off the TV and radio so that we are no longer exposed to advertising and marketing.
- Read more so that we can understand just how deadly climate change is to our survival.
- Create. Invent. Love more. Work less. And travel more. But travel by train and by airship (when they finally go mainstream). When we travel, we forget about ego and status and stuff. It’s a tremendous learning experience, and it teaches us to appreciate our beautiful earth.
One Thing Leads to Another — Production and Consumerism Lead to Climate Change.
It’s tough to know what to do when the problem is so large that we cannot fix it individually. The only way we can is to do it collectively. This is why government is so important. Of course, it’s our responsibility to not only elect the right government, but to pressurize and guide government to do what is the best for all of humanity. And the best thing we can do for humanity right now is to realize that our way of life needs to change.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on October 27, 2016:
In line with international media and with Reddit, no climate change deniers will be given any space. All comments will be deleted unread.
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on October 27, 2016:
I live in Africa, and granted I've only been back a year and was gone 20 years, third world countries skip certain things, making it easier for them to move ahead of first world countries in certain aspects. For instance, I don't use a fiber router, I use a sim card in my router. :)
That said, it's not the third world that must move towards minimalism. It is the first world, particularly the USA which uses more resources and energy that a lot of other countries combined.
Third world countries simply don't use that many resources.
India and China aren't using as many resources as Americans are.
And thanks for sharing. :) Much appreciated. :) It's a message that needs to be heard, even if only a few start. )
CJ Kelly from the PNW on October 27, 2016:
While your underlying theory, consumerism causes waste, is correct, I worry that it would be impossible to slow it down, taking at least a generation.
Minimalism should be an objective of everyone, but how do you preach that to those in poverty in the Third World? Do you tell India and China to stop advancing economically. People want stuff. Popular culture has a lot to do with driving those desires. But shutting off the media is impossible.
Unfortunately, I think it will take those nations (and a few others) reaching First World status before they will accept minimalism.
In first world countries (U.S., Western Europe, etc.) the air and water are much cleaner than they were in the 1960s. They are cleaner than most third world countries as well. You can now even eat the fish out of Lake Erie, the Hudson and East Rivers (thanks for RFK Jr.). I had to throw them back as a kid. The air in incredibly cleaner. Every major project now has environmental mitigation attached and easements. I think we have a long to go. Urbanization has become a goal of many environmentalists and I don't know why. We are overbuilding both residential and commercial developments. Despite the fact that we are very conscious today of preserving what we already have, I fear for open spaces. But these concerns are a luxury to many outside our society.
Maybe speeding up "progress" in many poor counties could help. I've advocated for a new Marshall Plan in the developing world for years but sadly many Americans in particular, see that as "wasteful foreign aid." Is there another answer? Not sure.
Great topic. I'm sharing everywhere. Can't wait to hear other ideas or vehement disagreement...:)