The Story of my Stuff
According to Schor (3), the main problem facing the earth is symbolic consumption which she calls materiality paradox. According to (1), the global financial crisis of 2008 is an example of the dangers of symbolic consumption. Before, the crisis, the rate of consumer consumption was higher compared to their level of income. Subsequently, many households were heavily indebted and unable to repay their loans. As a consequence, many people lost their homes and other private properties to the banks. Before the crisis, many people were able to secure loans, such as mortgage and car loans. Therefore, the ability of people to secure loans made people buy products that they did not need. Material products became less important, but their salient meaning grew. A decrease in the price of products causes a subsequent increase in demand, therefore causing environmental constraints because of production. According to Schor (3), the only way to solve the problem of unsustainability and environmental degradation is to transcend the materiality paradox. Materiality paradox occurs because people purchase products in large quantities, but turn them over after a short period. Therefore, the problem of consumerism occurs, which creates environmental strains. Schor (5) argues that plenitude is a means to solve the problem. Schor (3) gives an example of the clothing industry that has greatly affected the ecosystem. Unsustainable consumer practices in the clothing industry is an example of how overconsumption affects the environment. Schor (4) argues that it is important to reconcile how the natural and social ecosystem operates. In my perspective materiality paradox is a situation where people overuse natural resources to produce products with the disregard of how it affects the ecosystem. There should be an equality between the need to consume and the available materials to facilitate consumption. Schor’s article is important to read because it elaborates the destructive practices amongst consumers to over consumer products, which creates unsustainability. Schor’s example of the clothing industry gives a clear indication of the need to invest in sustainability.
In the article, The Story of my Stuff, Leonard (241) describes four paradigm shifts that will help promote an ecologically compatible life on planet earth. Through the application of the four paradigms, Leonard believes that life will be happy, equity will progress, and pollution will decrease. The first paradigm is to redefine progress. For example, world economies need to stop using GDP as a measure of wellness in different economies because it does not distinguish between negative and positive economic activities (Leonard 242). The world should use other indicators, such as GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator) which measure economic activity with pollution, income distribution and resource depletion. The second paradigm is to do away with war; Countries like the United States spend millions of tax payers’ money to acquire new firearms (Leonard 243). However, the state can use the money it spends in war activities to develop long-lasting solutions. For example, the country can use the money to develop decentralized renewable energy generation systems. The third paradigm that Leonard discusses is to internalize externalities (Leonard 245). Many businesses incur a lot of costs associated with producing, transporting and disposing of products. The externalized costs of doing business are the major cause of disease, stress, negative environmental impact, soil erosion, and unsustainability. Lastly, Leonard encourages people to value time over consumer products (Leonard 246). Evidence points out that overworking is a major cause of climate change, stress, social isolation, and overconsumption. Therefore, people should translate productivity growth into short working hours. Annie Leonard incorporates her four proposed paradigm shift into her New World Vision through first redefining progress through the proposed action to measure equality and measuring community activities. Secondly, Leonard proposes that world governments should work together to develop a team of biologists and ecologists to determine the appropriate levels of consumption and promote sustainability instead of fighting against one another. Thirdly, Leonard argues that determining the best level of consumption will internalize externalities of production. Lastly, Leonard (246) supports the value of time over products by encouraging the reduction of working hours. Creating alternative stories about the future through social change will change the mentality of many people, who will, in turn, make several changes to make a bright future.
Weston argues that human beings can develop another world. For example, human beings should think of the scale when making targets (Weston 21). For example, people should be diverse when making decisions about sustainability. Also, human beings should redesign systems, such as the transport system to reduce pollution and overconsumption. Furthermore, human beings should embrace and celebrate change. According to Margaret (18), the benefits of individual action is that collectively, they will make big changes in the world. However, the main limitation of individual action is that people may face the hurdle of accessing resources to drive change. Collective action will bring sustainable changes in the world because many people can work together to drive policy changes that encourage sustainability. Based on the readings, it is important that sustainability groups should conduct extensive meetings to discuss the appropriate methods of sustainability. The most important components of the Agenda 21 include the funding of developing countries to have the capacity to conduct sustainable development. Also, the integration of developmental programs to fulfill basic needs for all people is a necessity (UN 1). The UWB Campus can help achieve sustainability by popularizing the concept through popular media outlets. Also, the UWB Campus can teach students about the importance is sustainability.
Leonard, Annie. “Epilogue: Writing the New Story and Appendix 1 and 2.” The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health—And a Vision for Change. New York: Free Press, 2010.
Robertson, Margaret. “18. Working as Agents for Change.” In Sustainability Principles and Practice. New York: Routledge. 2014.
Schor, Juliet. “From Consumer Boom to Ecological Bust.” Chapter Two in Plentitude. New York: The Penguin Press, 2010.
- “Agenda 21 – Chapter 1 Preamble, Earth Summit, 1992.” Un-Documents.Net, n.d, http://www.un-documents.net/a21-01.htm.
Weston, Anthony. “Other Worlds are Possible.” Chapter 2 in, Mobilizing the Green Imagination: An Exuberant Manifesto. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2012.