“Just imagine,” they discussed, “corporations would convince folks that they’d be happier if they bought something they never knew they wanted or needed, just because those who would profit told them to! Not only that, after a year or two, they convinced folks that the item they’d bought was an outmoded piece of junk needing to be replaced by the latest model loaded with new features.” The mesmerizing power of commercial advertising lured the populace to buy and discard in an endlessly frustrating and unfulfilling cycle.
Science fiction? Maybe not so far from the truth. Consider this quote from the economist Victor Lebow in 1955. "Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”
And enormously productive we have been, but at what price? The U.S., with about 5% of the world’s population, uses about 25% of the world’s energy. We consume and then discard (create waste) from about 30% of the world’s resources. Obesity and diabetes lowers the life expectancy of today’s children to less than their parents. Too much of a good thing? Much of the rest of the world would like to imitate the American lifestyle. But we would need the resources of 3-5 additional planets to do so. (The Story of Stuff is an informative and entertaining short video about our excessive consumption of stuff.)
As the world’s population continues to grow, it’s increasingly clear that endlessly increasing consumptive expansion is impossible to sustain. Consumption is not America’s highest ideal; we stand for much loftier virtues. It’s time for a new paradigm. Countless generations before us have led fulfilling, happy lives before the advent of the “age of advertising.” We can create that kind of society, and we must because this is our one and only home. We are forever…Earthbound.