Tessa Schlesinger is an ardent minimalist, convinced it is the only way to combat climate change in a world gone mad with consumerism.
Excess is the Driving Force Behind Climate Change
As we all know, 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.
The Roots of Excess Consumerism
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.
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.
Business and the Drive for Profit
Two factors need to be covered here, but before I do, I want to do away with the simplistic understanding 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.
Overpopulation and Over Production
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.
Minimalism Not Only Makes you Happy but Saves the Human Life
Make no mistake, the planet does not need saving. You do. This plant will go on living long after you are gone. It may not have the kind of air that human beings need to survive. It may not grow any more food. It may no longer comprise the kind of water that human beings need to drink, but the planet will be here. The planet does not need saving. It is human life and other life that needs saving. In order to do that, we need our planet to have the same climate, grow the same food, have the same water, etc. that has been necessary for us for millions of years.
Affluenza, the condition that results from excessive possessions and power through money, has led to an increase in mental illness and physical disease. Minimalism prevents this.
Minimalism will lead to less production by business, more free time for people leading to increased creativity and invention, as well as greater happiness and peace.
Why Destroy our World for the Sake of Stuff?
What you can do?
There are several things you 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 your existing home into a semi so that more than one family can live there.
- Grow your own vegetables so that we can stop depending on big-agriculture. You'll save money as well. Small portable vertical gardens can become part of your kitchen.
- Study minimalism and see how you can cut down on the use of products in your own life.
- Give away or sell what you don't need.
- Switch off the TV and radio so that you are no longer exposed to advertising and marketing.
- Read more so that you can understand just how deadly climate change is to our survival.
- Travel more. Create. Invent. Love more. Work less.
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.
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...:)