Deep Thinking about Deep Recession IV: Green Consumerism

Green Consumption

The third element in my little cogitative experiment that makes the current recession qualitatively different from past recessions is Green Consumerism.

By Green Consumerism I mean to point out that we’re living through a time where, finally, the average global consumer is fully aware of experts’ predictions of impending environmental catastrophe unless we make radical changes soon in our patterns of consumption (i.e., large parts of how we live). This awareness is currently almost unavoidable in North America, Oceania, Western Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. Not only that, but this awareness is starting to have impacts on the real world of consumption in these places.

Now, I’m not talking only about the “shift” to “green products and services.” The move from Hummers to Hybrids. The rise of organic food and homeopathic medicine. The dramatic substitution of recycled toilet paper for softer-than-soft Charmins (hey, if you’re a tree, that’s pretty dramatic). Yes, there are shifts, but can be to higher cost products. So, if I shift all of my food consumption to organic, although that technically would be a shift over to the greener side, it would also move up GDP–organic food is costlier to product and it costs more at the till. That’s not true of all green consumption. But when that happens, it can look like Green Marketing is just another scammy way to shake out a few more shekels from Mrs. Jane Consumer.

I’m focusing more on the kind of awareness that events like Earth Day, and maybe more specifically the Earth Hour event which was huge here in Toronto (we played Scrabble by candlelight in my house, cool…). It’s about an awareness of waste. A careful contemplation of what’s unnecessary. At Burning Man, we encourage each other to think about what we can do without. Earth Hour, and Green Consumerism in its wider sense, does something very similar.

On the ground level, because of changes like this, consumers–i.e., people— are becoming more cautious about conspicuous, mindless, and endlessly-increasing consumption. The average person, the average consumer, is beginning to wake up to the fact that their children are going to inherit a huge pile of garbage and problems rather than the planet full of possibilities that all of our ancestors up to this point were granted.

It’s a sobering thought. And we’re beginning to think it.

And I think it’s beginning, just beginning, to be reflected in shopping malls, and boutiques, and stores. Not only should we buy green, we should make do with less. Much less. Reusable shopping bags and hybrids are just the beginning. Think biking, walking, growing your own food, making your own clothes and music, repairing instead of replacing. Can anyone say ‘Permaculture lite?’ Multiplied across the global economy, what kind of impact would that have?

In the face of recession, some of us are saying “less is good.”

So what impact on the economy we have with these three trends: Globalization, Digitalization, and Green Consumerism? You can probably see where I’m going with this….

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