And 7 actions anyone can take to combat the overconsumption crisis
I'm really excited to dive into this month's topic, consumerism, because that's the reason so many of you came to Soapbox. Last year, we were featured in the New York Times about this very topic. Fun, right?
We're coming full circle (#CircularEconomy) and we can take action as we head into winter — the Season of Stuff. Holiday shopping season is almost upon us, so it's time to get serious about shifting away from consumerism.
The upcoming READ module features an article by one of my favorite journalists, Emily Atkin. She argues that consumerism IS the problem; climate change is the most serious symptom.
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
Emily Atkin, author of HEATED, one of my fav climate newsletters, wrote this article called "Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease" and it lays out why we absolutely need to take on responsibility for climate change as consumers. Highlights are below as always, but I hope you get a chance to read the full article on New Republic!
Here's what's happening --
We can only solve the climate crisis through collective action. Yes, we have to put pressure on corporations and government. But we ALSO have to buy less, waste less food, bike around, and shift the ways we live. (Some people say sacrifice; I say fun new adventures.) Make sure to read the full article on New Republic!
Next module, we'll dive a little deeper into the "stuff" that's causing such a huge problem and take a look into how consumerism is so toxic.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
Now, we'll watch a video about the history of consumerism, since most of us know we're in a wack situation but not why we're in it.
I went back and forth for over an hour deciding if this was the right vid to share with you. My absolute favorite on consumerism is The Story of Stuff, but I've shared it waaay too many times over the past year.
Instead, we're going to watch a 10-min video on the history of consumerism because I had NO idea how we got here. Were we always this way? (Spoiler: no). Why is consumerism a thing now (get it, haha)? Is it all bad or can consumerism actually be good?
Key takeaways are below the video as always.
So here's what's going on:
The video is certainly interesting. If you keep scrolling to our reflect module below, you'll see some thoughts from one of our readers on his problems with the video.
But before we go there, let's act!
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
We literally cannot afford to keep consuming at our current rate. The good news is, changing your consumption habits can be FUN and save you tons of money and time!
Here's a mix of individual actions, advocacy, and random fun tips to question consumerism.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
In our Reflect module, I'm sharing two things: the reader reflection I promised earlier in our Listen module, and then, a short animated video of the Hopi Origin Story. The modern-day Hopi people live in Arizona, but of course, their history and Indigenous roots transcend America's state borders. The storytelling and language of the video blew my mind to the moon and back — you'll never see this kind of beauty in videos of people trampling other people during Black Friday (#consumerism).
Here's some thoughts about the video from earlier:
The video was interesting, but I felt that the takeaway was dangerously close to arguing for commodifying or privatizing critical social needs. Its calls for a new kind of consumerism based on an "economy focused around buying and selling services and goods focused on our higher needs" is dangerously close to things like privatized medicine or even more dystopian concepts like privatized fire and emergency services. If such things can be classified as "higher needs" then selling it on the free market cuts off access to these higher needs for those without means. Adam Smith ponders about the virtue of buying and selling books, and indeed, today we sell textbooks so prohibitively expensive that college students despair if they are required reading. If the video isn't trying to make this argument, then it unfortunately doesn't do a very good job of it.
This idea of making consumerism involve important services reminds me of a controversy in the news recently, about this new reality show that was proposed centered around activism, where activists would compete with each other for social media outreach and monetary support. Anti-Racism Daily gave a good analysis for why this was a distasteful idea here.
Now, another video!
This video is family-friendly, and if you've seen the 7th Harry Potter, the animation in this video reminds me of the Hallows scene. Take 4 minutes out of your day to watch this beautiful Hopi Origin Story.
💡 To move away from consumerism, we need a cultural shift. One that reminds us that we're stewards of the earth; we're a natural part of the earth. Our role is to defend and live in harmony, instead of extract and live in dominance. And we must build this cultural shift together.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!