- We would need four earths if everyone lived the western lifestyle.
- A child born in North America or England will consume, waste and pollute more in a lifetime than as many as 50 children in a developing country.
- The industrialized world uses close to 70% of all oil consumed in transport even though they make up only 20% of worlds' population.
My generation (early-mid 30s) is the first to be advertised to from the moment of our birth. We are the first to experience massive credit card debt. We were offered credit cards at the first moment we stepped onto a college campus. We are sold on consumption. We are requested to do our patriotic duty by shopping. This idea that we are meant (and entitled) to consume is dangerous to our moral fiber - we place more importance on our entitlement to consume than the consequences of these actions. Materialism, consumerism, and advertising have joined together to create very high expectations for the good life and a belief that we are all entitled to these expectations.
How many people do we know that have a large SUV and/or truck and refuse to trade down because they feel entitled to this vehicle. The problem is that we don't see the direct ramifications of driving this vehicle. It guzzles a lot of gas? "So what - I can afford it, " is the response. The consequences; carbon emissions and oil depletion - are not even a consideration. If it is something that we can afford, then it is something that we are entitled to.
A while ago, I posted something about the high costs of cashmere. The demand for cheap cashmere sweaters at big box stores has had huge impacts on the environment - the goats which are used to create cashmere are now creating desertification. When we demand so much stuff at a cheap price there are multiple larger costs. So many in our society either don't realize or care about the actions of purchasing a sweater - as the ramifications don't affect us directly. We can afford the sweater and that is what matters to us. The all-pervasive sense of entitlement has entered our western psyche - and is simply reiterated with every commercial and every trip to the store. We are entitled to anything and everything that is affordable. Those items that are not affordable now will be made affordable soon. We can all purchase all that we want.
We are taught to believe that we have a right to anything and everything that we want - if only we apply ourselves to it (and sometimes applying ourselves is not even necessary). It is a priority. In a consumer society, people have very high expectations for personal gratification. People feel that they are entitled to have all their expectations met. Life should be easy. The good life should be available to all - and easily attainable. People should get out of their way - it is a right. This narcissist behavior is frightening. We have all seen video of people pushing and jumping over each other for certain toys. You would think that these people were starving and pushing for the last grains of rice.
When oil depletes and becomes expensive, what is going to happen to those people who feel entitled to the "good life"? What will happen to those people who feel entitled to drive a gas guzzler? To those who feel entitled to eat strawberries in January? What is going to happen to the fabric of our society? Anger. Anger at the loss of ability to get anything that we want at any time we want it.
We need to change our sense of entitlement to one of appreciation. We need to learn to appreciate what we have rather than increasing desire. We need to understand the ramifications of consuming. We need to understand that our world cannot continue to sustain this mad rush of overabundance and instead enjoy what we have. We need to change the definition of the "good life." We need to make changes in our own lives (which can help change supply and demand). This takes a personal change - we cannot change the mindset of others. As we change ourselves we can show others that the good life may appear different than advertisements lead us to believe.