Tuesday, December 20, 2016

We All Buy Stuff

The annual holiday exhortations about not adding too much to the piles of stuff which we consume make me want to go roll some coal. It's not as if I'm a big doodad and tchotchke purchaser, but I buy want I need and want (subject to affordability) like most people, and give gifts because that's what one does.

More than that, while there is nothing wrong with personal virtue and conservation, it isn't really going to save the world. I'm one who thinks whole "think globally, act locally" movement from decades ago was a big mistake, suggesting to people that if they just recycle a bit more that everything was going to be ok. And, you know, you should recycle a bit more! But it isn't going to change the world, and neither is buying 10% less stuff for the holidays. What will change the world (using this example) is implementing systems that ensure that everybody recycles more, whether of the carrot or stick variety, passing laws of various kinds to encourage/discourage certain kinds of packaging, outlawing the use of truly toxic substances, etc. I mean, yes, doing our part helps, but not enough.

And as the title says, we all buy stuff, and most of us buy what we need and to a lesser extent want. Sometimes people think my not owning a car is some grand environmental statement. It isn't. I don't need a car and I much prefer to not have one. It isn't a sacrifice or even really a financial decision (a bit that, but not really). If I had a lot more money I still wouldn't want to own a car. But if I need one I rent one, and I also take cabs. I also like to travel so I fly. If I had a job I needed to commute to which didn't have good transit access I'd buy a car.

We all live in the system. The way to fix the world is to fix the system.