I stopped shopping for pleasure during our strike last summer. While losing large chunks of salary each week, I simply could not afford the pleasure of purchasing that new summer outfit.
I still could not afford to shop for pleasure in the fall when we finally returned to work. And even though by December I had income from two jobs, I did not shop for Christmas presents. I sent wishes instead of presents to friends and family.
But, just as I was beginning to feel smug about the financial benefits of this self-imposed austerity, the spring shopping catalogues started showing up in my mailbox.
So many pretty cardigans! Such cute dresses! I had to have those jeans!
I scanned the catalogues, wistfully wondering if I should splurge after all that austerity, until I noticed what made up the reading pile besides my bed.
The catalogues were piled on top of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, the climate crisis tome I was wading through in piecemeal fashion.
It wasn’t that the climate crisis was news to me. I had read the scary facts in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change. I had noticed the weird weather, the extra early spring. And yet…
Perhaps part of me hoped there was more time.
Perhaps I had just been comfortable with the cognitive dissonance.
However, when I noticed the incongruence in my reading pile, that comfort soon led to discomfort. That’s when I finally understood why so many people prefer to look away when the topic of climate change comes up.
We humans have such a strange capacity for accommodating cogntive dissonance.
Part of my brain had wanted to experience the pleasure of shopping again. Another part kept shoving facts into my awareness of the actual cost of all those beautiful T-shirts.
I really did not want to know. I just wanted to get out my credit card and shop. What difference would one little dress make anyway?
But, my rational brain argued back, what if billions of people think exactly that?
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we have to stop what we are doing. The planet simply cannot replenish what we take at the rate at which we take it. It’s simple math. We are subtracting more than there is. There is no negative number on this line that includes our continued existence.
It’s sobering to realize that the planet does not need us. The planet does not care whether we look away or not when confronted with all the facts of the rising oceans, the weird weather, the adaptations that fish and birds are already making to the changing climate.
It’s been here for 4.5 billion years. It’s not going anywhere.
But we may not be.
What are we prepared to do to ensure our children and grandchildren have a habitable planet?
Are we prepared to give up the pleasure of shopping for stuff we do not really need?
Are we prepared to embrace the concept of “Enoughness?”
I have still not bought anything brand new in a year although I did slip and buy a sweater from the thrift store yesterday. It was only $7. But it cost the earth much more than that to produce the cotton it was made from.
It’s a cost we can no longer afford to pay.
It’s a cost we need to face.
We can’t continue to look away.