26 Jan 2010, 11:22am

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    Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge
  • Day 26: To the Belly of the Beast

    I’m going to send some letters to the business community — hoping to carry the message of my Open Letter to Our Corporate Overlords directly to them. This one is going to Business Week Magazine.

    America’s fate is linked with consumption. We have learned to buy things to soothe ourselves, to satisfy our transient urges, and to Support the National Economy. But a consumer’s lifestyle also creates ever-increasing amounts of trash. As the planet’s biggest per capita producer of trash, America leads the world in subtracting value from lives, systems and things. From our grotesque pop culture to the millions of plastic bottles we throw away every day, from the cynical culture of planned obsolescence to the terrifying increase in CO2 emissions in our atmosphere, the evidence is overwhelming: Consumer Culture is killing us. It’s killing our curiosity, it’s killing our common sense, it’s killing millions of species of life all across the world, and it’s ultimately going to kill our planet if we keep it up.

    Humanity desperately needs a new kind of culture that’s based, not on taking value out, but on putting value in. One way forward is to adopt a new system for indicating the overall health of an economy; the notion that economic well-being is a function of ever-increasing consumption (as measured by the GDP, for example) is obviously absurd.

    Yet it is a measure of how far we have strayed from simple common sense that stating the obvious (if we keep turning the world around us into trash, eventually there will be nothing left) is interpreted as being “anti-business” or “anti-capitalism.” No, it’s not; it’s the only way that Business and Capitalism will be able to survive in the long run. What good is maximizing profits over the next century if the result is a world so choked in toxic waste that no life can survive?

    Warren Senders

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