Thursday, August 26, 2010

Need vs. Want

There's an interesting debate I got into this morning over coffee with dad.  It seems as though we are getting into many debates these days as I dig deeper into certain issues.  This morning we were discussing consumption and how we need to find a way, especially in this country, to reduce our footprint significantly or we are in big trouble.  I recently watched a TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/jason_clay_how_big_brands_can_save_biodiversity.html on the subject, and it made reference to resource consumption and how terribly over capacity we are.  Many of us blame over population, but according to this video, a cat in Europe has a bigger footprint than the average person in Africa.  Further more, the average American consumes over 40 times as much as the average African.  Amazing!  So it made me take a hard look at my own situation and consumption.  I have a ton of stuff, just random stuff that is now crammed into my parents house because once upon a time I believed that I needed another pair of jeans, or a better hair straightener, or a big flat-screen television, or what ever.  Now it just sits here and symbolizes how truly clueless I was. 

But was I being clueless or just following suit with the status quo?  As young adults fresh out of college we are all trying to figure out how to do it all.  They are selling it to me, so it must serve a purpose of some sort that I will discover as I am now taking care of my own household or doing this new job and living in this new environment.  The truth I discovered is that we really only need the basics and what we add on to that need is simply want.  There is nothing wrong with wanting things.  We are bombarded with messages telling us we just have to have the latest and greatest everything.  So where do we draw the line between need and want and when is enough enough?  For large enterprises the answer appears to be never.  There is always more revenue to make and competition out there that will jump all over the market if a company lets up, even just for a moment.  And we are beginning to behave like our companies.  We want more and more and more. 

I decided to make an effort in my own life to change this and it is much more challenging than I thought.  To make a positive change in our world for the sake of our planet, we have to reduce each person's footprint.  The best place to start is take a look at our patterns and habits.  As I started to pay more attention, I see glaring wasteful things that I do, despite my strong opinions.  For example, I certainly did not need another pair of shoes and a dress the other day, but I felt compelled to purchase them anyway.     Why did I feel so driven to buy stuff that I know I don't need?  Because, just like any other habit, it is hard to stop certain behaviors all at once, especially when the result of the purchase does not appear to have any striking negative effects.  But we need a new consciousness about it.  We need to be aware that every purchase does have some impact.  If we at least are aware of what we are doing, more sensitive to our purchases, maybe instead of buying three pairs of shoes, we will buy one and carry it out of the store in our own reusable bag instead theirs.  This is obviously just one small example, but it applies to many other facets in our lives than just apparel.  I would like to start learning more ways to cut down on my consumption and reducing all these wants.  For me, it seems to be a good first step.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Filling the Time

Three months have passed since my epic Europe adventure came to a close. Since then I have gone through a myriad of emotions and mind sets to deal with my very different situation. Once upon a time I was completely independent and self sufficient, living in a separate state from my family, making my own money, no one to answer to in the least bit. While many aspects of my Atlanta life were unsettling to me, having freedom and solitude were privileges that I certainly took for granted. Now I find myself in limbo, unemployed, living at home with the parents, back in the suburbs of North Carolina. I make sporadic trips and have a great friend network here to keep my social life alive, but there are still many hours in the day that I must fill while also resisting the influence of my parents' lifestyle and the unavoidable complacency that comes with a lack of responsibility and stimuli.

Reading, watching various documentaries, and working on different writing projects has become my full time job to combat these influences and maintain sanity. As a result of my new exposure, I have learned much more about society, the planet, politics, history, religion, people, my country... you name it. There is so much we blindly accept as truth and I am quickly learning that my fears of living in such a controlled bubble are perfectly valid. Last night I watched "The Corporation" www.hulu.com/search?query=The+Corporation and it articulated perfectly all that I have been utterly convinced of for some time. The influence that these power house companies have on our culture, our individual experiences, our values and tendencies and life styles, are all manufactured by some company out there. It is impossible to avoid the impact and it angers me that they have had a hand in shaping my own psychy whether I like it or not.

This film is only one of many compilations of information that confirm what my instincts have always told me. As I educate myself, I feel compelled to share my findings and show people what they may have never noticed about the world we live in. Many elements of our society are problematic and in order to live happily in our individual lives, we become jaded and shut out all the terrible things that happen around the world, even in our own backyards, every day. As I learn and find myself in this period of limbo, I am feeling more compelled to follow a career that shows people what is really going on and what they can do. At the end of the books I read, the documentaries I watch, the lectures I listen to, there is a hopeful message of change. The change lies simply in the demand of the people. People are generally good but power and greed of a small few have blind sided us from what is best for us. We need to start making small changes and by doing so, we will be able to live in a world that is better for us and generations to come. I devote this blog to my quest in finding a vehicle to educate and share.