I have been interestedly listening and reading the news lately on the topic of The Great Disruption, an idea by Paul Gilding that we have reached the limits on both the economic situation and the environment at the same time, requiring a cataclysmic shift in our thinking. Consumption cannot keep growing at the rate it has been, the Earth has reached its environmental threshold too, and drastic action needs to be taken to set us back on the right course.
For people already trying to live a more green and frugal lifestyle, I think it is nice to see consumerism issues like this getting this mainstream press. First there was an article in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman that made their most read and emailed lists. Then On Point had Paul Gilding on for a great show that covered everything from global warming, to how future generations will live and work, to whether or not people are really happier when they accumulate more material wealth.
There have also been a few others, including those that talked about how even the ultra rich are finally starting to take notice of their spending behaviours and make small adjustments which have an impact on both the economy and the environment.
Trying to remain optimistic about the potential for change is hard. In America, consumerism seems to be the name of the game. People are always upgrading to the bigger, better, faster, newer model whether they need it or not, and until recently were ignoring both the financial and environmental consequences.
I think Gilding’s right in that unless people perceive this as a crisis, they are not likely to take action. My fear is that just like with the rise and fall of gas prices, changes are going to temporary. While we are feeling the economic crunch, people will cut back. Then they’ll go back to spending money on worthless crap they don’t need, won’t use, and can’t afford.