Day 434, May 25, 2021
A Better Species
Tonight's soundtrack: Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, 2002 (the video is weird, but it sounds quite good)
It has been a busy few weeks and I have fallen off of my usual routine of writing so I feel like there is so much to share, and yet it seems almost too overwhelming to start.
Over the weekend, I was reading about ethical responses to markets. The main focus was on being an educated consumer that understands where the goods one purchases are from, and being aware of all the intermediary steps and people that are affected by that purchase. There are choices we have as consumers to choose brands or products that are produced with sensitivity to human livelihood and the environment, there are formal structures like Fair Trade products, and more local solutions like buying shares in CSAs, participating in alternative currencies, and gift economies.
Like all things, we make compromises. We have a diversity of choices and factors that come into play with any product we buy, but what TBTE is emphasizing, is that the more educated we are about the impact on people and the environment we are on the things that we buy, then we can better check our inclinations towards consumption as a succor for our desires and as a substitute for true well being.
Coincidentally, this weekend I also read an article about cobalt mining in Congo, an ingredient in the batteries that power our cellphones (including my iPhone), and how it comes at tremendous human and environmental cost. Some day, in the distant future, I hope we look critically at such foolishness, how we valued the production of things over human life and the wellbeing of the planet. I suppose that is a tradeoff that is just more abstract when we think about countless other products as well, but still present. The Washington Post article seemed to reinforce all that I had just been reading about in TBTE.
This past year has been a kind of trial run at what it might be like to exist as a different kind of consumer. I think I can count on one hand the number of new articles of clothing I've bought over the past year. Most of the non-grocery "things" I have bought are small items that have attracted my attention for various reasons, but in hindsight, most of those things didn't bring me happiness or fulfill an important need, though I had pretty much convinced myself that they would.
When I want to buy something, I will often research my options, read reviews, forum posts, compare prices, weigh used vs. new and at the end of all this, it can feel nearly inevitable that I will purchase the thing. I will have persuaded myself that it is something I need... something like a guitar pedal, or sneakers specially formulated to stick better to flat pedals on a bicycle. What the sneaker and guitar pedal promise is to transform the experience, make it something new. They promise to make the experience so wonderful that I will now love life on this Earth better.
I tend to forget that it is riding the bicycle, playing the guitar, that make me love this life on Earth better. I can do either of those things without any additional equipment. I am good at fooling myself, however, so it is a constant thing to be critical about, to try to examine. It is one of those things to engage in our attempt to be better citizens and inhabitants of this planet, along with our work to dismantle racism, sexism, ableism, and all the -isms. It is part of our evolution to becoming a better species.
Be well and take care,