By Al Cloonan
It is not uncommon to hear of students who dream of living sustainably and long for a self-sufficient existence. Students recycle. They compost. They boast their mason jars proudly. But many students fail to realize that their own addiction to consumerism is the reason that sustainability is a figment of the imagination.
Studio art major and co-director of the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT) house, Jacob Ferdman said that the consumer is manipulated. Americans are taught to be mindless and unconscious consumers. He said that true power over someone is when they do what you want without asking them to do it and Americans are not taught that their waste is tangible.
“[We need to] understand that the amount of waste that we have is a problem,” he said. “[We have to] deal with the source of the problem.”
The American society is based on capitalism. A reminder for those who may have wrote off political science class, capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit. This consumer driven market has established the United States as an international player and created a global force of private gain. It has also created a wasteful and careless society.
Ferdman said that consumers are manipulated into believing that they need the newest trend.
“We are, as a society, are brain washed into this role of ‘consumer,’” said Ferdman. “Our role is to work hard so that we can consume. Working hard is secondary to consumption. The goal is consumption.”
The consumer takes and takes and takes and gives nothing back but waste. The earth does not have unlimited resources and finally citizens on the global level are finally beginning to take action. The promotion and acceptance of the sustainability movement has taken many years and has many, many more to endure if it is to significantly alter the effects of mindless consumerism.
The HSU culture encourages sustainable living. Sustainability is encompassed under the idea of self-sufficiency. The problem with this is the amount of people who rely upon mass produced services and goods.
“[Sustainability is] living within [your] means so that natural life can go on with as little interference as possible,” said Linnea Hampy, environmental management and protection planning major.
This idea of humans co-existing without being an invasive species is far-fetched but is personal for many students and people nationwide. Corporations have seen this and ironically, exploit this desire to minimize human impact on the earth by producing “green” products. Everything from “zero-impact” notebooks to “eco-friendly” cars are being marketed to consumers in an effort to “prevent climate change.” True to form, consumers continue buying into this “green” trend and absorbing the earth’s resources in this sustainability movement.
“[Sustainability] isn’t something that you can buy,” Ferdman said. “It is not a fashion, it is not a fad. It is not an emotional state.”
To truly move away from a consumerist mindset, a student must think outside the shopping bag.
Hampy said that the demand on raw materials needs to be reduced.
“There’s no need to buy new items when you already have them,” Hampy said.
The ever growing waste stream continues defining the American consumer.
Casandra Kelly says, “[what] about trash islands in the middle of the ocean?” Casandra Kelly said. “I don’t want that for my children.”
Kelly, an ecological restoration major, says that sustainability is a closed loop system that is able to function on its own, but also incorporate the human touch.
“We are a part of this system,” she said. “It is right to take responsibility of our actions.”
The only true way to be “sustainable” is to break free from consumerist slavery. Live off the land and give back to the land. A balance is needed. However, this is unrealistic. The United States is addicted to consuming.
It may be decades, if ever, before Americans figure out they can’t drain the earth of her resources and still live such lavish lives. Meanwhile, HSU students can keep pushing along, trying to reduce their impact upon the unforgiving waste river that is forever accumulating. Until the skills to provide for oneself do not include relying on Wal-Mart and the like for basic needs, it is hard to imagine that most people could survive.
“We are taking all these [resources] and we are destroying the environment,” Ferdman said. “No one is having a good time. You can never have enough.
“I just hope that people will figure out how to enjoy themselves and enjoy the world around them because it’s kind of a cool place.”