Is a Consumer Economy Sustainable?

Is a consumer economy sustainable?

I don’t think so. I believe that our leaders have missed the point. Recently the tag line for a local summit on sustainability read “creating a sustainable consumer goods economy”. The sponsors were large corporations and schools. These large organizations may be moving in the direction of sustainability, but they also depend on constant consumption.

The summit tagline is a reflection of the mass denial of the severity of the environmental and economic challenges that we face.  Or  maybe a misunderstanding of the big picture. We need to create changes, systems and  holistic views to address the scope of our environmental challenges. These two great challenges of economy and ecology are related. Our political and economic models are based on consumption and continual growth, yet the environment seems to be telling us that continued growth in consumption is not sustainable.

One science model suggests that we passed the point of sustainable growth in resource use around 1987. Since that time, each year we extract more resources from the planet that it can replenish. This is not a good plan. It is similar to deficit spending and borrowing from the future. These are not sustainable solutions.

Is a Consumer Economy Sustainable

Thankfully there are many innovative companies working on solutions to pieces of the puzzle like Unreasonable Institute or TED. The Unreasonable Institute’s has a project to put 11 top rated incubator companies together on a yacht to collaborate on solutions. This is a great start and we need a more holistic approaches. We need companies and organizations, working on system wide solutions, who understand that growing population and growing consumption are not models for sustainable living.

Solutions will come from new models of living based upon quality of life for all. These models for living would focus more on enjoying life, protecting the planet and the oneness of life. Services and experiences would take precedence over consumption. In the book Natural Capitalism, the authors explore the idea of companies shifting their business model away from consumption. In their model, companies would build long lasting products and then sell maintenance and product updates to make profit. This would greatly reduce the consumption of natural resources.

Maybe we need a new umbrella organization that unites all countries and people in creating models for sustainable living and quality of life for all people. How about a united federation of countries or citizens united for the planet? Shifting the massive resources devoted to war and defense to more beneficial causes could shift the whole dynamic. Why not fund ecology, health, energy efficiency and other life enhancing projects? We are all in this together.

These are just a few of the good ideas that I’ve seen. Let’s put our hearts and minds together to talk, brainstorm and create better ways of living. United we can find ways to thrive while protecting this beautiful planet.

If you like this post, please let me know. Like it, share it or comment. Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Is a Consumer Economy Sustainable?

  1. Without consumerism, we would be starving, naked, and freezing. I happen to like owning consumer items such as a computer, a TV, and toilet paper. I don’t want to live like they do in North Korea, where consumerism is basically banned.

    I have written a blog posting about the same subject that you did, except I take the opposite point of view as you. I titled it “The world’s supply of resources is getting bigger, not smaller.” I think that reading it would expose you to some ideas that you are not familiar with:


    • Hi Dan,

      Thanks for writing. As you mentioned, we do have opposite perspectives. I haven’t seen any facts to back up the idea that resource supplies are getting bigger. Yes, potential solar energy is enormous, but we haven’t figured out how to efficiently use and store it. Better technology may help solve the environmental problems, but waiting is a riskly bet. Most research that I’ve seen shows that the damgage caused by fossil fuel based energy use, large population, and a consumer based economy as the 3 key burdens. I hope more people are willing to look for solutions instead of debating the existence of a problem. That is exactly the distraction that big oil wants us to get wrapped up in. Let’s take care of our planet. brad


Your turn!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s