Sometimes less really is more

Dear President Trump,

So here’s another huge topic that I don’t really want to tackle but won’t leave me alone – how the hell do we not consign millions more people to poverty when we finally come around to the reality that we can’t keep generating stuff at a break-neck pace if we are going to do anything remotely effective about climate change? I just read through CNN’s Valentine’s Day (2019) overview of the Green New Deal and it’s possible that a viable answer to this scary conundrum is in there somewhere, but it would sure help if someone could explain it clearly and compellingly.

As you know, I am not an economist, at all. I took an intro econ class 35 years ago, which I barely passed, and remember next to nothing about it (and I still think I’m ahead of you, but that’s nothing new – pick a topic, any topic, and most adults in the US have stronger working knowledge of that random topic than you do). So I am out of my element here and feel weird addressing it knowing that I don’t have much, if anything, constructive to add.

That said, when I read the paper and see the emphasis everyone is placing on “consumer confidence” and whether it will hold sufficiently for us to avert another recession, I feel queasy and sick at heart. It’s as though the thing that will keep our nation’s children at least nominally fed and that will keep boomers’ retirement funds at least nominally flush is the thing that will keep us churning out or enabling other countries to churn out the green house emissions and other environmental toxins that will be our collective doom. And lord knows, we’re programmed to be consumers extraordinaire – the 99% buys copious stuff that bedazzles and burdens us (and our eventually our children, who are also buying boatloads of bedazzling stuff) while you 1%-ers rake in the profit and squirrel it away for a rainy days

Not only do I not want to help you and your quest for re-election (or re-installment) by aiding the economy anymore than I have to (mortgage payments, food bills, utilities), but I don’t want to (literally) buy into this death-trap of a system. And yet, people need jobs and a lot of those jobs involve making stupid stuff that no one really needs and that will just end up in landfills or in the gutters waiting to be washed down city drains out to sea.

So how the hell do we get out of this insanely stupid cycle? How do we convince the manufacturers to do the expensive factory re-tooling and workforce re-training needed to move away from making Happy Meal toys to solar panels (etc.)? How do we convince consumers they are better off going for a walk and looking for the birds they hear than buying another T-shirt that won’t fit in their drawers? How do we convince cattle ranchers they’ve got to retrench, down-size, and take care of their herds in ways that truly reduces the environmental impact or there will be no ranch to hand down to their daughters?

Is this a top down sort of deal where we need government to play the heavy and set stringent regulations to address the looming crisis (like the one literally looming over the Atlantic off the Florida Coast in the form of Dorian)? Are we the people going to have to lie down across the roads leading into and out of the rail yards and ports to protest the movement of all the crap to and fro? We certainly can’t wait for the Captains of Industry to get their shit together and start orienting in real ways towards the longer term future.

So what’s it going to take? And why am I asking you? Talk about tilting at windmills – this is probably one of my silliest tilts ever – you are poised to ease restrictions on methane gas release just for the hell of it so why in the world am I even bothering to pose these sorts of questions to you?

Well, because I feel a moral obligation to point out that we are on a crash course with climate change and you are pumping the gas (literally, damn it) and that this is truly one of the very worst things that you are doing with the your presidential power. You are a f*cking menace.

May we be safe from greedy profiteers and from our own addictions to stuff.
May we be willing to make fundamental changes in our consumption patterns.
May we find ways to hold industry and ourselves accountable.
May we make peace with the idea that sometimes less really is more.

Tracy Simpson

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