Citizen or Consumer? A Year in Reflection

One year ago I started writing out of passion (and some anger). My how things have evolved! This blog has seen 75 posts in the last year, some of them great, some of them alright, some perhaps less so. I have tried my best to write about the issues important to me: a sustainable society, a healthier planet, a ethcial economy, and a more just world.

I have also learned so much about life, happiness, sustainability, and where I want to be in the world. More importantly, I have learned there is quite a large group of people out there feeling the same way, and we are all beginning to see the division between economic growth and true prosperity. What do you think? I would really value your input on ways I could make this blog better, both in function and in form. Please comment on this post or email me!

Since today marks Steady State Revolution‘s one year blogiversary I decided to take a look at the very first post and revise it with some fresh ideas (and hopefully improved writing skill). Here’s the 75th post on the 1-year blogiversary!

Citizen or Consumer?

The US Consumer Unit
The US Consumer Unit

Yesterday was the start of the “Christmas Shopping Season.” Aside from the typical trampling of an elderly person at a Wal-mart, this day signifies the beginning of the American Consumer’s busiest time of the year. Between today and New Years we Americans will increase our waste by 25%.

Each year we start sooner and sooner with our Christmas consumption, this year marketers started preparing for the season around Halloween. The average consumer spends about $1,100 a year on gifts, over $800 worth of which is holiday-related purchases. This means 73% of all our gift-related buying is done in the holiday season. That’s a lot of consumption.

Consumerism accounts for a large cog in the economy. Consumption drives the sales of goods, which is incentive to produce more goods. Producing goods is the basis our growth model. In order to grow the throughput (GDP) of our economy, we must increase the production and consumption cycle. What better way to do so than to make it your intuitive nature to spend? What if we could find a way to move people from identifying as themselves, or their jobs, but instead as what they buy? From this the American Consumer is born.

Continue reading “Citizen or Consumer? A Year in Reflection”

Buy Nothing Day

Choose: Citizen or Consumer
Citizen or Consumer?

The holiday seasons have a strong connection with families, harvests, and merriment through most of human history. However, today’s holidays have been corrupted – turned into marketing spectacles for the merriment of executive paychecks. Holidays in our growth economy are about increasing consumer spending, buying newer and bigger, getting more and more. They are no longer about family, friends, community, love, life, or happiness.

Take our beloved symbol of the holiday season: Santa. Mr. Claus is played off as a symbol of hope for young children by media. Hope for what? Gifts! Hope for toys! Santa is the unofficial Coca-Cola mascot during the Christmas season, for Christ’s sake! (pun intended)

This holiday season take back the holidays from the greedy corporations! Make Santa a man who gives love and quality family time instead of a new plastic toy! Join those who are choosing this Black Friday to show the world what they truly value: their lives, their families, and their freedom.

Free Your Consumer Shackles, Reclaim Your Citizen Title

Adbusters is “calling for a Ramadan – like fast. From sunrise to sunset we’ll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our five-planet lifestyles.” Join this year’s Buy Nothing Day Campaign.

Go to the farmer’s market for your Thanksgiving dinner this year. Stay home on Black Friday and play games with your kids, or snuggle up with your loved one by a fire. Save yourself from being one of the yearly victims trampled to death at a Wal-Mart. Buy Nothing! Stop Consumerism in it’s Tracks! Why? Because you are a citizen, not a consumer!! You have the power, now use it well. In a market economy your actions show policy makers what you want. What do you want more of: plastic toys or life?

We’re already over consuming this world out of the ability to support life. We’ve already altered the face of the planet so much that it will never be the same for our children. Do you really think more purchases, greed-oriented business practices, and consumer-driven holidays are the answer? No? then don’t let them be the answer! Boycott Black Friday!

Vote For CASSE!

CASSE is in the running to receive valuable help for their efforts to spread awareness about the steady state economy. Free Range Studios is an outstanding online marketing group that specializes in progressive causes. They are the makers of the online video, The Story of Stuff. Voting is now open for an organization to receive $15,000 worth of marketing services from Free Range. CASSE is one of 400 candidates and can become a finalist by “winning the election.” Each person who signs up can cast 3 votes. It takes several steps to vote, but only a minute or two.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to this URL: http://youtopia.freerangeproject.com/
  2. Click on Vote Now.
  3. Click on “Sign Up” in the upper right corner.
  4. Click on “Signup” at the lower left.
  5. Enter your information, check the “Accept terms of service” box, and click the Sign Up button.
  6. Click on Sustainable Living in the list of categories on the right.
  7. Find “Grow better, not bigger!” in the list that appears.
  8. Click on “Vote”.
  9. Click on 3 to answer “How many votes?”

If you are inclined, please cast your votes for CASSE now, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Click here to go to the voting website.

No Impact Man Movie Showing Near You

A couple of Seattleites (myself included) have banded together to host a screening of the No Impact Man documentary sometime during the two weeks of Copenhagen Climate Conference (December 7th through 18th). This great event was organized by the No Impact Project and the Center for the New American Dream. If you live in the area or know anyone who does, be sure to let them know about this great flick and how they can win a pre-release DVD or No Impact Man book! If you’re not in the Seattle area, check out the event site to find a screening near you.

We’re hosting a showing on Dec 18th at the Greenwood Senior Center at 7pm (one month from today). The 90 min film will be followed by a short discussion period and activity. Snacks and drinks will be provided and we are asking for a donation of $5 or 3 cans of food for the local food bank. All (monetary) proceeds will go to the No Impact Project and with every donation you are entered into a raffle to win one of 2 pre-release DVDs or 2 No Impact Man books!

More information:

The New Green Economy

The New Green Economy
The New Green Economy

It’s official! I’m heading to the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) New Green Economy Conference! Through my volunteer work with the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) I was invited to volunteer at the conference (and attend when off-duty). The goal of the conference is to form “a set of recommendations on how to move towards a green economy in the US and in the world… The recommendations will be presented to the Obama Administration and to Congress, as well as to other key stakeholders.”

While there are still a few months before the conference, I thought I would share the good news. There are tons of different topics being covered, and only three days to fit them in, so I have to choose wisely. During that week I will be posting each day about the things learned and experienced, and hopefully some good pictures too! I am really looking forward to helping out with this great conference, meeting some change-makers, and learning more about the many concepts of the Green Economy.

Here’s what NCSE has to say about the conference:

“Marking a decade of history, NCSE’s signature national conference will engage leading thinkers and doers from a diversity of disciplines, sectors, and perspectives in a structured conversation about the meaning of the green economy and how investment in green education, research and jobs can help solve both the economic and environmental crises.

Welcoming over 1000 attendees, The New Green Economy will bring together leaders in sustainable business, environmental policymakers, civil society, university faculty, students from across the nation, and educated citizens.

NCSE leverages a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to bring together involved scientists and decision-makers from a wide range of organizations. Our conferences are highly interactive, including renowned speakers, topical symposia to explore issues in more depth, and breakout sessions to develop (and publish) recommendations on how to advance science and connect it with policy and decision-making.”

I am looking forward to helping with the conference and bringing some of the new back to you! More to come in a few months…

P.S. I aware of the environmental downsides of air travel, and I am not necessarily fond of it, nor do I have much faith in offsets, however I am looking for the best offset program for my trip to at least do something. Any suggestions are welcome. The NCSE does offer an offset service as part of their registration, but I would like to find the best option out there.

Post Growth Reading List

Here are two lists for the post-growth, steady state economy. The first list is for those of you who haven’t done much reading or are new to the topics. I would suggest reading them for an introduction into steady state concepts and then move on to the more in-depth list. The second list is what I consider (so far) to be the top books/articles – the “must haves” on your post growth reading list and is an expanded companion to the introduction list.

If you only read 5, 10, or 16 books/articles about sustainable economics and post-growth thought these are my suggestions:

Introduction to Post Growth, Steady State Economics

  1. Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, by Brian Czech
  2. Thought Control in Economics, Adbusters Issue #85
  3. Deep Economy, by Bill Mckibben
  4. Prosperity Without Growth, report by Prof. Tim Jackson at the SDC (now a book)
  5. The Great Transition, report by New Economics Foundation

Further Post Growth Reading

There you have it. There are many other books/articles/blogs out there and I would definitely recommend you read as much as you can on anything that interests you. My problem usually lies in having more books to read than I have time to devote to them. I’m sure there are worse up-hill battles to be in, though.

Governance and Economy

The Wall Fell, But We Didn't Learn
The Wall Fell, But We Didn't Learn

The fall of the Berlin wall was a monumental event in history. Interestingly enough it acted as the end of a large-scale governance/economic experiment. Here we have two societies, each with similar backgrounds, but each with drastically different views of government and economics. On one side was placed a highly controlled society and on the other was placed a free market society. The prevalence of the capitalism in this instance was taken as proof of its superiority and also acted to secure it in our minds as they way for the future. However, there have not been any others to step up in competition – even if they would have been allowed socially.

So we are still locked in the same debate – capitalistic democracy or communism/socialism. Note how it is one or the other in this debate; no one seems to question that perhaps neither is the correct form for human prosperity. Given that the two extremes are both unsustainable, and the incredibly unlikely (and perhaps socially unwanted) possibility of a green, benign dictator coming to our rescue, we are ultimately left to our own devices to re-envision government So how do we make this change in the bureaucracies we have established and entrenched in unsustainable growth? How do we transition to a truly beneficial and socially just form of governance?

I would suggest we first ignore the initial pessimistic view (however likely it might seem to be) of a collapse of society in favor of an optimistic view of successfully transitioning without collapse. Why bother? Because the latter option gives us a challenge to work towards while the former option encourages laziness (and, in my case, would significantly increase my drinking habits in order to cope).

Continue reading “Governance and Economy”

What Has Economic Growth Done For You Lately?

At a certain point our society’s leaders realized that in order to continue growing the economy we would have to turn consumers to debt. This is simply the next step in a series of events lead by our growth addiction. You see in order to get bigger the economy needs consumers to consume. However, you can only consume so much before you run out of money – even with raises there is an ultimate limit.

Our growth economy eventually demands more than you can afford. The solution was to simple relax the restrictions on credit and encourage consumers to buy more than they could afford now, assuming that could afford it later. (up until recently these low restrictions were mostly ignored, though not much has really changed)

But “later” comes with even more demands and less money because you’re now making payments on the stuff you bought in the past. This leads to more lending, spending, and indebtedness.  I would propose that this equates to a false growth of the economy, and a false sense of wealth to the consumer.

So riddle me this batman, what has economic growth done for you lately?

Continue reading “What Has Economic Growth Done For You Lately?”