Consumerism is Earth’s dead-end

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Remember the old saying that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade? Without more on Covid lockdowns, nor on Ukraine, one of today’s biggest bowls of lemons comes from our gas stations and grocery stores where price increases have hit thirty-year highs.

First were “supply-chain issues”, blamed on lockdowns and COVID infections around the world. Now, as prices keep climbing, we’re told there’s an aggressive wave of inflation hitting all economies. Wages aren’t rising in sync with living costs. Conversations no longer focus on local infections, but on local gas-pumps.

There’s a lot of blame to be placed on companies and corporations, in their enthusiasm for price hikes and rises in their bottom lines–all at our expense. This is the oldest variant, Complainacron, at work! It’s hard to imagine that we once found the weather sufficient grounds for complaining.

However, this period of quick inflation might be a bonus, a blessing in disguise.

Today’s big issue, the elephant in every room, is runaway climate change. This is not a monthly budgetary problem, it’s an existential issue for our whole planet, for all human beings. Out-of-control climate change poses today’s most significant threat to the existence of the human species–yet we focus almost exclusively on the stuff in front of our noses–COVID, lockdowns, schools, masks, vaccinations, and invasions from powerful neighbours. Ukraine will be small change compared to radical climate upheaval.

Inflation may be what forces us to personally do things to manage a climate in crisis. Once fuel exceeds two bucks a litre, many will begin reconsidering our driving habits, from vehicles that don’t burn fossil fuels, to home heating, to our very worklives–why drive kilometres in awful traffic when we can work from home, as we’ve done for the last two years. With today’s high prices shaking us awake we might shop less, recycle or re-use more, or just “get by” without having to possess more and more stuff.

Our travel plans could, wisely, come back home–not with the car or airlines and all the infrastructure travel requires. In fact “home” might become our new watchword. We could really do our shopping close to home, take our vacations in a canoe, or in our backyards, rather than cruise up the Alaskan coast. For years we’ve been told it’s wise to shop at home, to donate to local projects, to put our time and attention to local issues and local environmental problems. Even our political focus might change to local issues, rather than the celebrity issues of wars in Europe or landing millionaires on Mars.

Voltaire, in the 1700s, suggested we mind our own gardens. Are we finally waking to the world around us, thanks to today’s guns held to our wallets? “Shop local” is no longer an advertising campaign, it’s a matter of how long we want to live on this beautiful, beautiful planet.