As retailers encourage holiday shoppers to start early, I’d like to suggest we pause and think about what constitutes enough.
How much is enough, not only for ourselves and our families, but for everyone? How much is enough money, time, work, food and stuff?
Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population but consume nearly a quarter of its resources, including 24% of its energy.
We use one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23% of the coal, 27% of the aluminum and 19% of the copper.
Everything we buy provides us with a lifestyle unfathomable in much of the world, and yet, by the time we approach retirement, we can’t figure out what to do with all the stuff we have accumulated.
While we wade through closets, many people wear the same clothes every day and struggle to find enough to eat.
Our consumption has an enormous impact on the natural world as we extract minerals, cut trees and ship goods around the planet.
We drain wetlands to build beach houses and hotels, while populations of all other animals plummet.
So back to the idea of enough, the subject of the Fall 2021 issue of Yes! Magazine.
“Given the alarms being raised by climate science, high-consumption societies cannot achieve ecological healing unless we practice an unprecedented degree of collective restraint in resource use,” Stan Cox writes in the lead story, “Enough for Everyone.”
In other words, we need to say “enough” a lot more often.
The International Energy Agency projects that people worldwide would need to consume about 1,300 watts per day to achieve sustainable development.
Americans and Canadians consume more than 9,000 watts of energy per person per day, seven times that standard and 30 times the per-capita energy use of Bangladeshis.
So how do we lower our carbon footprint? We must move toward production of essential goods and services and away from those that are not.
“Such policies could include less military production and more restoration of ecosystems; fewer planes or private vehicles and more public transportation; fewer McMansions and more affordable, durable housing; less feed grain for cattle and more production of grains and legumes that people can eat; and an end to production of luxury goods, in favor of basic necessities,” Cox writes.
We’ve all heard there’s enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Unless we put real reform in place, most humans will continue to lack enough food, shelter and health care.
So, perhaps, in the true spirit of Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate, think about enough.
Instead of buying another sweater or tie, another electronic device or another useless stocking stuffer, we could make a contribution to a nonprofit trying to help those with less or protect our natural resources.
Perhaps we could spend time with our loved ones taking walks in the forest, playing games or reading.
We can share modest meals and not waste food.
Enough needs to include everyone.
Shannon Brennan can be reached at email@example.com.