By: Vibha Pinglé

2012-11-25 09:43:33

Truly Celebrating this Holiday Season

Every garment you wear, every product you use and, of course, every morsel you eat has been touched by tens and hundreds of hands.  In today’s global economy, these are hands from around the world.   Global production has helped millions of people living in entrenched poverty raise themselves out of it – and that is a good thing. 

But it has clearly not fully delivered on its promises. Global production still involves sweatshops, guzzles toxic chemicals, and produces ‘stuff’ that is not really needed.  Starting this Holiday Season let us choose products made by folks paid a living wage, and made without the use of toxic chemicals that will harm our health and our earth.  The socially conscious products might cost more, but if we don’t pay more now, we will end up doing so later, for we will have to pay for all the harm and inequality.  

Here is what we are learning from experts and scholars: accumulating goods is not great and blind growth is not great either.  Annie Leonard’s ‘Story of Stuff’ is powerful. It brilliantly explains why the cost of what we buy does not factor in the true cost of extraction, production, and disposal.  Our earth would be much healthier if the price of ‘stuff’ reflected it’s true cost to our environment and to us globally.  

We are also learning that our global economy cannot keep growing at a good clip without irreversibly harming our planet. Bill McKibben discussed why economic growth has become a problem in his article “Money≠Happiness. QED.” He noted that, “growth no longer makes most people wealthier, but instead generates inequality and insecurity.”  Wars and conflicts seemingly emerge over a variety of issues, but for many of them, problems of inequality and insecurity constitute the core reasons.  

Think about it: the ‘stuff’ that you buy might not only use sweatshop labor, it might also exacerbate inequality and insecurity around the world and lead to pointless conflict.  So I will have to pay for the grenade that was lobbed across a fence somewhere in Africa, or the landmine that hides under the dirt in a remote corner of Asia, and the pain and destruction it creates, in the not too distant future.   

And it gets worse.  Things that we buy, and all the growth we generate is harming our very home, the one place we all so desperately want our children to inherit – our  earth.  The landscapes that are so integral to our memories, and our children’s memories, are fast changing, disappearing really.  As Bill McKibben noted later in the same article, “growth is bumping up against physical limits so profound—like climate change and peak oil—that trying to keep expanding the economy may be not just impossible but also dangerous.”

But, with all the stuff  around us, everywhere, which parent can keep saying no to her toddler or child?  I always found it excruciatingly exhausting to say ‘no’ to my toddler when he’d ask me for the umpteenth little toy.  And with today’s global economy, you can’t escape the plastic junk (packaged in even more plastic) even if you travel to remote parts of Africa or Asia.  It might take you forever to get there, but the stuff is there, waiting for you. It’s tracking you! 

There is enough evidence to prove that toxic chemicals cause chronic and terminal diseases – asthma, allergies, autoimmune reactions, and of course cancers.  The damage to our fellow species is just as horrifying – seen the pictures of the two-headed fish? While it might well be impossible to feed the world’s population with organically grown produce, we can surely limit our consumption of chemical fertilizers.  

What can we do, as socially and environmentally concerned parents who need to go about their business, but would like to move our world to a better place?

Shall we start by purchasing only socially conscious products?  It will cost us more upfront, but it will make a difference and will make us feel happier in the long run.  The product we purchase will be more rewarding and that is the best gift we can give ourselves, and our families, this Holiday Season. 

Let’s join together and create a Socially Conscious Global Economy.  We’ve moved in this direction with our Farmer’s Markets. It’s time to expand the idea of a socially conscious economy, and think globally.   

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