We are led to believe that prosperity is related to the amount of ‘stuff’ that we have. For me this is not prosperity, I feel it’s more to do with filling a ‘hole’ inside ourselves. I know this because I’ve had that hole inside me and I’ve endeavoured to fill it in many ways including consuming stuff, cars, clothes and over the years, houses. The ‘hole’ was a sign of something lacking within me; my self-worth, feeling unloved, or unsafe. Yes I needed a house but maybe not the size I bought, the same with the car.
The problem with this is that we ask the Earth to pick up the tab for filling this hole. Each resource we consume from a notepad to mobile phone to the bricks that build your house all came in some way from the earth. Either it was mined, drilled, dug up, logged from or grown on it etc.
Prosperity for me now is clean air, clean water, natural chemical free food, love & community with family, friends and neighbours.
I have personally seen people in Mongolia live quite happily in a yurt. It’s not that they might not have wanted some other things but not on the scale of ‘stuff’ that we are currently consuming.
Households in the USA, on average, consumed 46 times more than households in Mozambique (2013 figures). We don’t need 46 times more stuff to be happy and in fact the USA, the statistics no anti-depressant medication sales does not show the benefit of 46 times more household consumption. Self-Storage in the USA (i.e. people storing all their ‘stuff’) is worth billions ($31.6 billion dollars 2015 estimate) and continues to increase year on year.
The time has come for each of us to ask the honest question. Why am I buying each item I consume? If we buy ‘stuff’ to fill a hole inside us or buy a big car because it makes us feel better inside, for me it is not a fair balance to ask the Earth to pay the price for this hole.
We cannot blame governments or corporations, they are happy for us to consume as it makes the economy tick over quite nicely for them.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released a report on Resource consumption. In the graph below on material extraction you can see how our extraction of material resources from the earth have shot up since the 1970’s.
The above can’t last. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this extraction of resources is directly linked to what we consume as people. The more phones, cars, laptops, devices, clothes, fuel etc. we consume the more we extract from the earth. But we don’t all consume the same.
“The poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% consumption and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption. “
There is too much consumption by the wealthiest countries, to say it’s just prosperity. We know we fill the ‘hole’ by ‘retail therapy’. We know that if we don’t feel loved or good about ourselves, a shopping trip or going online to buy will help us feel better in that moment. We know if we don’t feel safe we might buy a bigger house or a bigger car. Do we actually realise what the cost of filling that hole is for the Earth?
With all due respect to companies, they are quite happy to help us fill the hole inside ourselves by buying more stuff. In fact a lot of marketing is aimed specifically at our ‘holes’, whether it is ‘feeling unloved’, ‘feeling unworthy’, ‘feeling unsafe’, ‘feeling low’, ‘feeling undervalued’ etc. There is a whole area of marketing called Inadequacy Marketing, designed to make you actually feel inadequate. You don’t have this new sparkly car etc., don’t you feel inadequate? Companies then solve that feeling of inadequacy by selling you their product or service they are marketing.
At the moment it’s as if we are on a boat in the sea and we are taking up the wooden boards of the floor of the boat to make a fire to keep us warm. It’s not a big boat and we are already seeing the problems with ripping up parts of it. The water is beginning to leak in. Political leaders see graphs and statistics that would make the hair stand up on the backs of our necks and yet do nothing about them for fear of causing panic and upsetting the financial markets.
The Earth has enough for all our needs, but for me it does not have enough resources to satisfy our desire to fill the emptiness that lives inside us.
And so what is the solution. The solution is to work on filling the ‘hole’ without buying stuff. Work on our feeling regarding being unloved by connecting with friends (in real time not on-line) or with a supportive community. Let’s get honest about how we are feeling, why we are feeling that way and how we can address it without consuming more ‘stuff’. The earth cannot foot the bill of our insecurities. If we can pause and take time to find longer term solutions to how we are feeling that are also more Earth friendly as well.
Unless we are willing to ask ourselves some honest questions, we or our children will not enjoy the true Prosperity that is here for us to enjoy because we have consumed it all.