Where we are today?

We live today in a world full of technological aids helping in our everyday life. Even though the 70s Sci-Fi has not come into reality are the machines doing lot of things to us: washing our laundry, cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, getting us into places we could not have even dreamt of going if there had not been technological revolution. Technology helps us get everything we can dream of no matter where it is. Emails, tweets and short messages bring us the whole globe into our hand and express couriers brings fulfill our wishes by bringing the unimaginable goods from where ever.

These wonders have given the term consuming all new dimensions. It is not only buying goods for surviving for real need, but it is a type of getting pleasure. Shopping has become one of the top 10 hobbies around the western world, and goods have lost their meaning and value (Levonmaa, 2009). It is no longer question of the quality but the measure.

As the consuming grows, grows also the amount of waste. As it is so easy to get new items for the broken ones, it is easier to buy a new than mend the old one. As the production has been taken into cheaper countries it has also become often cheaper to buy new one goods made in developing countries than to buy a service in western world that costs more due salary level and taxation. (Vaara, 2010) The amount of waste has grown in Finland in 2000 decade by 1 to 4 per cent yearly. In year 2009 it reached its all-time peak this far. (Statistics Finland, 2009)

As the modern world is leaning to industry gives it us a new dilemma as well. If the economy of certain area is leaning into one industry branch too much, do people have moral responsibility to consume so that its economy does not collapse. In 1996 von Wright was discussing the matter by naming two industries that cause abuse the world resources the most. They were private car industry and mass tourism. Private cars use oil that is not re-newing, thay are health and environmental risk because of the pollution they are making, the orads are ruining the landscape and old cultural heritage. And as the number of people in our planet grows, grows the number of cars. (von Wright, 1996)

Dilemma of Consuming

There are people discussing that the solution stop consuming. People would just stop buying anything but necessaries. That creates new problems as the society we live in is based on the continuous economic growth which comes from consuming. Von Wright was also analyzing what would happen if people stopped consuming cars, and has a scenario that it would cause mass-unemployment in all biggest western countries: USA, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Sweden. The scenario became true with 2000 decade’s decision. As General Motors laid off thousands of employees because of economic reasons it devastated several North American cities and caused vast economical consequences. (Uusi Suomi, 2009) That indicated that even though people would stop consuming private cars and turned using only public transport would it also have consequences on sustainable economics. As it is also indicated by some writers that only people in welfare are able to make decisions purely for helping others and who can do charity to people outside their family and dearest, would it mean that crashing the economy is crashing the future of sustainable ecological world. (Pihlstöm, 2005) The idea is probably based on the widely approved theory of Maslow that shows that before human needs to be certain of its survival and safety before it he is possible to think the others or the welfare of community (Maslow, 1968).

All this creates major dilemma. if we mass-consume we destroy the environment and the globe. If we do not consume we distroy the community and its economy which leads to the destroy of environment and the globe. The whole system in Western world is based on consuming and it is growing by itself already. The world is turning into phase were few global giants are ruling the world and local economies are leaning into one single industry. That not only make world economy vulnerable, but also uses the world resources to the point were it can be called explotation. The industry is taken to the places were it make most profit and goods are delivered globally from one point. The carbon footpront grows and oil consumption with it.

What can be done?

Would the prosperety without economical growth be even possible? As mentioned earlier, there are so called extreme greens that have very ascetic vision of way people should live in order to save the world. They declare that people should consume only what is absultely needed, avoid using oil, stop eating meat, and what is most important : stop making babies (Manninen, 2011). It is true, that population growth is one of the main reasons for accelerating consumption and using world resources, but are so extreme acts really needed? Would the too strickt changes affect the economy in similar way as the decession did for US car industry: cause unemployment, alienation and other phenomena that only push people further from the thoughts of saving the globe, if we think the Manslow’s theory? Maybe there could be also solutions that are not so radical. Sure the countries where population growth is expanding rapidest has there a solution that has been proved: educating women make them make less babies in developing countries and it has the biggest affect to the population growth. but not only restricting the population growth saves the planet – anyhow not the poorest in India or African countries are the ones most consuming though they are making most of the babies to the world.

Could the solution be travelling and masstourism as Von Wright suggests.  (von Wright, 1996) It is not necessary for anyone’s living as driving car might be. It might be impossible to go to work from countryside to town if you do not have car of your own and there is no public transport, but who really needs tourism? It is only for pleasure – and no big harm is coming when its abandoned – only some frustration to northen winters or social preassure. But in there, as in all consuming there is also the other side. There are countries that live from tourism, which economy is almost complitely dependent on tourists that come and consume into goods and services they have been saving the whole year. What would happen to Canarian Islands or maledives if tourists stopped coming? After tourism has taken over the islands with hotels, restaurants and shops – it might be difficult to turn back into society close to the nature – living from the nature. The nature has been ruined when masstourism came, and can it be retrieved anyomore?

On these times as global warming and other ecological disasters are on the media constantly, are people disscussing further on possible solutions. Could anything really be done, or should we just enjoy while we can – we’re not able to use the globe end anyhow, could we not just leave the problem to the ones coming after us? The problem is moral problem. Pihlström the dilemma of moral as a basis for action as a thing that goes over everything. Moral oblicates people to act upon its measures, the values person has. Same time it come sto ethical solutions in one’s life: even though Maslow’s theory gives perseption that only those who can afford financially can make ethical acts for the others, moral oblicates everyone to do their part.  (Pihlstöm, 2005) Could it really be possible, that it is only question on values – what people perceive important for them, and for the others is done even though it would not be pleasant. The holiday in fareast could be changed into traintrip somewhere near in the homeland. Is it only money and the need to show the others that one has money to do things he is doing that is driving people to travel far and consuming into something that is not necessary needed? If people’s values would change back to the roots. if value would go past money in purchases and ethical reasoning would step into choises made in consuming – would it change the world? (Jackson, 2009)

Solutions from the philosophers and experts

Several philosophers have seen the same problem in the money-driven economy from the days of ancient Greece, but still no one has done a thing to it. (Hanski;Niiniluoto;& Hetemäki, 2009) Is it the lack of will to change the lifestandards, it is laziness to grasp the difficult subject or is it pure hedonism?  Anyhow the sustainable growth demands the will for happiness and better life instead of passion for more material good and money. It forces to keep the economical growth in minimum, allowing it only when it really changes the value of life and can be done in economically sustainable basis.(Jackson, 2009) The growth is possible when it is taken into non-material: science, art, culture.  (Hanski;Niiniluoto;& Hetemäki, 2009) Consuming into teather or museam locally does not use the natural resources in similar way as the material goods do. Does that mean, that world can he change even though people are hedonistic – or does it mean that it helps in that?

Ulvila and Pasanen discuss in their book that in order to make the change, the whole culture has to change: actions, way of thinking, the goods, and institutions. The blame the demands of economical growth and hierarcial structure of society. The solution in their eyes is that GBD should not be the indicator in evaluationg the sociaty, not at its meaning today at least, but it should change into indicator that is taken into account trading, homework, etc. And in all should economical sustainability be taken into account. To get to that point – economical hierarcy structures need to be torn down. No more division between rich and poor. That means that more radical actions need to be done for the rich side of population in order to get them consume in more sustainable ways, and the economies in poorer societies need to be supported to get them better GBD and engourage them to make sustainable actions as well. (Ulvila & Pasanen, 2009)

Von Wright discusses that green thinking or ethical dcissions are not going to save the world but science and technology itself. It is true that Technologial developpement has created lots of good – solutions to sicknesses, more free time, better level of wellfare, possibility study for women. Luckily it has also found ways to slow down climate change e.g. by carcatalysators and filters in sewage and exhaust fumes. (Pihlstöm, 2005) But was it not the technologiacl development that created the size of these problems?

My solution

When reading all the reasoning for the state of the globe, and even some solutions, there still rises one big question. What will it mean to the world economy if we all really stop consuming and consentrating on economical growth? The situation at the moment is a vicious circle, if we rise prices we must rise wages, to pay the wages we must rise prices to get more money..  The ones making decisions are concentrating only to the economical growth as the constantly rising tempo takes all the attention from the other things, as sustainable economics and environmental issues. These become new challenge as they soon are left un-noticed.

One of the biggest challenges is climate change that forces to diminish carbon emmision. New economics Foundation counted that even at a 3 per cent growth rate which is low even for many developing countries, the global economy would need to reduce its carbon intensity by 71 per cent by 2050 compared to 2002 which is impossible. (NEF, 2010) Even though Von Wringt says that science is going to save us, and new solutions that use less natural resourses are found, it is doubtful. Could people really consume less if there would become a way to use less natural resources? I have a concern, that still consuming will continue as high or even increase. Science cannot change the attitudes, and change in that need to be found somewhere else.

Pihslström trusts that moral guides people to better solutions. I believe like Maslow, that people do not listen to their consious unless everything is fine in their lives and they do not worry about their income or safety. So moral would only save the richest countries? How does that work in Internationalized world where all the trade in made globally, where goods are produced there where it is cheapest and sold there where one gets most profit? Costa rica gives some hope, as they have shown that when measuring peoples happiness in 2009, they are the happiest people in the world even though e.g. their GBD is only one third of USA. (The Happy Planet Index, 2009). So if one do not need to be rich to be happy, could one be happy to do his bit to the globe and start to consume less? What could be the key to the attitude change? Education for sure. Would people learn fast enough so that the actions would start in all over the globe, as educational culture is different in different countries, same ideas do not work everywhere. Education is the only way to make peole change their attitudes in peaceful way, legislation helps, but forcing only harms the outcome. There are always people resisting the change, and now that all globalisation and Internet has taught people that you can buy anything, anywhere , anytime it is hard to change the attitude back to the old – buying products that are produced near in ethical matters, and buying only what is really needed instead of gluttoning in shopping extacy.

I see middlestep between the situation we have at the moment, and the degrowth, system where society is not based on consuming, a phase where people start to appreciate the locality. Understanding that it is needed to spend the money near so that it would do good to the society they are living in as a form of taxmoney. It can be simple things: buying products near-by, buying services near-by, travelling in homeland instead of foreign countries etc. Buying a product made near brings money to society as a taxmoney the producer and seller pays to its muncipality. if the whole supplychain is within same muncipality, all the taxmoney it creates is helping the same society. These actions are not needed only from private consumers, but also from the public sector: muncipalities, government, parishes, big companies. The world has become global where big global companies rule the markets: same soda, candy or car can be bought all over the globe. Maybe localising where one can, and turning into fair trade onto products that need to be imported would turn the world better place by riching the ones doing the work and their societies instead of the stockowners of the large multinational companies. Fairtrade is an substitute attitude to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. It is more ethical consuming as it offers producers a better contracts and improved terms of trade. This allows them the chance to improve their lives and plan for their future, as well as using the profit to the whole society by financing etc schools and healthcare.  (Fair Trade) It would bring the international business into new phase from globalized money-driven system to the sytem that works in ethical and nature-saving basis, in sustainable way for everyone.

It is needed that individuals change their attitudes and habits, but it is not enough. The big companies need to come back to the basics and localize. The constant rise in the salaries and prices must stop, and if there is allowance the wages should be first equalized to diminish the economical hierarchy instead of rising the salaries of the top management and the richest. Also the governments should start to think more locally. Even though European Union has brought lots of good things people by allowing free movement, making borders again and restricting the import and export by custom fees would financially force consumers to favour local production. When people buy goods that are made near, they also keep the money in the same area: the producer pays taxes to that area, lives in the area and use the services in that area. He probably employs other people who also keep the money circulating in the region. When the goods are not produced far, the carbon footprint is smaller, and e.g. the food do not have to be preserved but less toxis and preservatives can be used which again saves the nature. If we are not importing the goods so much we are dividing our industry in several branches and at the same time divide the risks if one branch is not succeeding we are not necessary in economic collapse. The quality of the life becomes better due better wellfare in region, and cleaner environment and nurishment. That concludes that people are happier, and they care more about the environment and the future.

Maybe international business has been the key point in this matter, if be go back localizing in stead of globalizing we are able to save the planet without too radical degrowth actions.


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