There is a Hopi Indian prophecy that warns that when the mark of the bear is everywhere, the beginning of the end of abundance is nigh. Look around you….bar codes are everywhere. The bar code symbolizes consumerism and the unsustainable addiction to economic growth. Back in 1984 the consensus was that future generations would have an abundance of leisure time. My first career choice was to be an environmental recreation specialist. Sadly, the predictions that technology would allow us to work less never eventuated. Australia is now one of the most overworked countries on the planet. We have a collective case of Affluenza that drives us harder and further down the path of consumer addictions that will eventually destroy us. Imagine how many reasonably sized homes could have been built with the capital that has gone into the 5 bedroom McMansions that fill the ¼ acre blocks around our cities. There would be no shortage of housing. Imagine how many hospitals and schools could have been built with all the money that has been spent on a flat screen TV for every room in the house, or outrageous professional kitchens for people that live on take away. In the past few decades, most income growth was spent on consumer products for brainwashed people that got the Affluenza virus from the psychological genius of mass mind control, or advertising as some like to call it.
Our addiction to economic growth has been fueled by neo liberal economic policies that believe a better society is simply one that consumes more. Happiness is not a function of how much stuff we own and is often impeded by the process of earning money to pay for stuff…I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go is the call most of us make every day.
Scaling down our consumer expectations now will prevent future generations from going without completely. Most resources are finite after all. It is especially important as we solve the energy crisis, as unlimited cheap sustainable energy will only fuel growth…shunting the problem down the road to the next limitation on human resource exploitation (probably Phosphorus or water).
Policies that support de-construction of a capitalist society such as a Universal Basic Income need to be debated and considered by major parties. As in Bhutan, indicators that measure Gross National Happiness should be factored into policy making. On a local level, re-zoning rural land so that it is cheaper to buy for someone who wants to live in a tiny home would make good sense.
Greed can be defined by the fear of not enough to go around, a condition hardwired into our northern European cultures through many a cold winter. Whilst we persist in believing this (now) myth, we will hoard according to the tune of the corporate advertisements. The problem is not that people own stuff, it is that stuff owns people. Once we can rediscover that the path to happiness is not lined with gold we will become a better society and one that will leave our children something other than a legacy of not enough to go around. Less is more!