Tag Archives: consumption

Earn your creative freedom

In the previous post, we talked about how out of place the primitive human mind is in our modern world. Overeating was used as an example of a natural effect of this situation, but many other self-destructive behaviors also stem from this source. In my experience, the one and only sustainable remedy to this unfortunate situation is creative flow.

Creation is the polar opposite of destruction, making it an obvious way to stop self-destructive behaviors. I’m sure that everyone reading this has been in that blissful state of creative flow where your body secretes happiness hormones without the aid of food, alcohol, social media, retail therapy or any other form of consumption.

Unfortunately, our primitive minds keep the vast majority of the population very far away from this ideal. Since most people remain stuck in a mindset of scarcity, our society still chases happiness through consumption. This perception creates an all-too-common vicious cycle:

Reversing this cycle holds the key to eliminating behaviors that destroy ourselves (e.g. overeating and sedentary living), our communities (e.g. consuming more than we create through excessive debt) and our environment (e.g. large CO2 footprint). Specifically, the following virtuous cycle is the polar opposite of the vicious cycle above:

We need a very simple shift in ambitions: strive towards the freedom to create instead of the freedom to consume. This simple change in thinking can make all the difference.

Obviously, breaking out of the orange vicious cycle and firing up the blue virtuous cycle is much easier said than done. In most cases, the most practical approach is to save up to buy your freedom. As a slave to consumerism, you will have to save up a sizable amount of money, not for a big house or car, but for a truly inspirational job that may offer lower pay and/or less income security (at least initially).

The next couple of posts will share some more practical tips to overcome self-destructive behaviors like overeating. All of them are helpful, but they will not be sustainable as long as you work to “earn a living”. Only when you stop working and start creating can you truly evolve to the point where happiness, health and sustainability simply happen naturally.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Why we buy low quality

Firstly, I want to apologize for the very long radio silence since my last post. My responsibilities at work have escalated to unsustainable levels over the past year and I had to put this project on the sidelines in order to avoid burnout. Luckily, this issue has now been sorted out with my boss and 2014 promises to be more balanced, implying a more reliable continuation of the One in a Billion project.

So, let’s get straight back into this vitally important discussion about consumption patterns – the most direct way in which you and I can influence the world. Unfortunately, things have been going very much in the wrong direction over the past couple of decades. The video below is probably the best documentary on this very worrying topic of planned obsolescence.

As often mentioned on this blog, the environment in which we live determines our actions. It therefore becomes obvious that, if we live in an environment where our stuff breaks all the time, we automatically end up buying more stuff. Then, as we have to buy more and more new stuff and our finances become increasingly stretched, we become more price-sensitive and end up buying even lower quality stuff. This is a very dangerous vicious cycle.

An important factor in this cycle is the pricetag on the item. A lightbulb that will last for twenty years might be only three times more expensive than one that lasts for only a year or two, but we have been conditioned to ignore the vast difference in quality and only look at the purchasing price.

This culture is reinforced by the increasing popularity of massive low-price stores. See this article for example which states that the drive towards low-price-low-quality consumables is causing a rapid rise in the number of items bought per person. Apparently, the average American now buys more than one item of clothing every single week and a new TV every 2.5 years. Wow…

Other things such as consumer electronics are sold on a combination of planned and perceived obsolescence. Perceived obsolescence is when an item is trashed because it went out of fashion and is very common for things such as cell phones. As an example, Americans keep their phones for an average of less than two years, thereby trashing more than 100 million perfectly functional phones every year.

Naturally, it is in the best interests of the producer to release a new version with a few more functions every year in order to sell more product, but the actual value added to the consumer and to society by these extra functions (most of which are scarcely used) is highly questionable. As long as consumers keep buying, however, this will continue, allowing producers to increasingly compromise on quality.

So, the first step to changing consumption patterns is therefore very simple: understand the concepts of planned and perceived obsolescence. Once this is properly understood, corrective actions start flowing quite naturally. Here is another video to help drive this understanding home.

Filed under: Consumption patterns – Better instead of more

Consumption patterns: The ultimate power

OK, so now that we have laid our three cornerstones (health, personal finances and mental control), we can start building our sustainable living fortress. The first part of this fortress deals with the way in which we consume.

It is an indisputable fact that the billion wealthiest global citizens control the world by the nature of their consumption. This is no over-statement. We literally rule our world through the stuff that we buy. Our economy is geared to provide that which is most in demand, our politicians must ensure that we always have enough consumables and that we have enough money to buy them, and our scientists must constantly make our consumables more, cheaper and better.

This really is a rather awesome power that we hold in our hands. And yes, like we all know; with great power comes great responsibility. It is clear as day that the time has come for us to start acting on this responsibility. And the fastest and most direct way of doing this is by making gradual alterations to our consumption patterns.

Please note the use of the word “alteration”. You don’t need to read much of this blog to gather that I’m not very fond of consumerism, but I’m certainly not advocating that we should all immediately cease all consumption. That would be ridiculous (and instantly crash our entire economy). Instead, I’m suggesting that we start consuming more intelligently and more sustainably in ways which are better both for our planet and for us.

This fourth chapter of the One in a Billion project will therefore discuss some practical ways in which we can change our consumption patterns in a manner that will be beneficial both on an individual and societal level. It is important to remain mindful of this premise as we progress through this chapter and remember that the way in which the wealthiest billion individuals consume literally shapes our entire world.

If you want to change the world, there is literally no better place to start than to change your consumption patterns. 

Filed under: Consumption patterns

Consumerism and happiness

So, thus far we have seen that consumerism leads to major ecological, economic and societal problems, but has still managed to become completely ingrained into our way of life. There must be a good reason for this and, if the advertising industry is to be believed, this reason must be euphoric happiness through consumption.

Unfortunately though, research has clearly shown that developed nations are not becoming any happier despite them consuming like we had 4 planets and leaving carbon footprints 10 times that which is sustainable.

It has even been shown that very happy people are on the decline with rising consumption, especially among women.

So, in effect we are killing our planet, ruining our economy and creating massive social inequality all for no reward whatsoever. And, as discussed quite often on this blog, this massive over-consumption also ruins our health, personal finances and creative capacity.

I don’t know about you, but to me this qualifies as utter insanity. We desperately need to break out of this very dangerous and self-destructive cultural trance.

Filed under: Introduction

Consumerism as an institution

As we have seen in the previous three posts, consumerism is the primary driver of our environmental, economic and societal problems. It lies at the root of every major global crisis, but, on the flipside, also represents the single best channel through which we can most effectively save our world.

Unfortunately, consumerism is now accepted as the totally unquestioned norm in developed nations. It is completely normal and totally accepted to consume like we had five planets, leave a carbon footprint 10 times that which is sustainable, be neck-deep in debt, live from paycheck to paycheck to try and keep up with the Joneses and to seek riches through speculation instead of production.

In addition, our politicians are fueling our consumerism with inflationary monetary policy, artificially low interest rates and excessive government spending. Yep, consumerism has indeed grown to become a worldwide institution.

It is vital for the future of our civilization that people become aware of the hazards of unchecked consumerism. And it is even more important that people realize that consumerism is the single biggest thing standing between them and a happy, healthy and wealthy life.

Please become mindful of this threat/opportunity. The series of Youtube videos starting with this one is a good place to start. You can also take a look at the summary of our sustainability crisis or the reasons why our current society is guaranteed to collapse.

Filed under: Introduction

Consumerism and the economy

Our desire to consume more value than we create has led directly to our current economic woes. Indeed, if countries live far beyond their means for far too long (such as America and much of the Western world) a massive credit crisis is the most natural result.

People seem to have real problems grasping the basic fact that, if you want to consume more, you also have to produce more. As an example, America has increased welfare and healthcare spending tremendously while fighting two simultaneous wars and lowering taxes. Wow… who in their right mind would think that this could ever work?

The result is that the total credit market debt to GDP ratio of the USA looks like this:

The above graph is simply a visualization of consumerism gone wild. Cheap credit provided by the Fed has allowed people to consume way beyond their means for decades. Unfortunately, the over-consumption party has now come to a close and will most likely result in the longest recession in our history.

But still, US and EU leaders still see further unsustainable spending as the only way out. Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result. He also said that we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that has created them.

If our leaders do not start heeding these wise words, we are in for a very tough time…

Filed under: Introduction

Consumerism and the environment

Consumerism is the primary driver of all the crises facing our civilization today. The average American today consumes like we have 4 planets and leaves a carbon footprint 10 times that which is sustainable. It is not only the Americans though. As seen below, the richest 10% of the world population account for almost 60% of global consumption.

In addition, it is a fact that we are already consuming 50% over our sustainable limit…

Thus, the top 10% of the global population actually consume about 90% of the resources that the earth can sustainably provide. Wow…

Therefore, if everyone consumed like the top 10%, the earth could house only 780 million people (9 times less than the current population). On the other hand, if that 10% were not here, the earth could accommodate another 4.2 billion people in addition to the remaining 6.3 billion and still live sustainably.

That is the massive effect of consumerism…

Filed under: Introduction