Are Our 'Default Settings' for Consumption Too High?

Women in rural China photo

photo by David via flickr

Just a brief break for discussion: China Dialogue has posted a piece where a Chinese journalist of 'a certain age' comments upon how her, and society's, 'default settings' have changed in regards to what is considered a 'normal' level of consumption. While normally we tend to focus on external solutions to environmental problems, sometimes how our own perceptions and expectations shape those external solutions.

Please read the whole article "Default settings and modern lifestyles", but here are some quotes to lure you in:Consumption has become 'right and proper'

Living in our modern societies, we calmly enjoy the various conveniences of modern life and have come to take them completely for granted; they have become our defaults. We very rarely stop to think do I really need a fridge? Do I really need air conditioning? Do I really need a car? Do I really need to shower every day? Do I really need a new change of clothes every day?

Every time modern technology presents us with a new possibility, we quickly learn to see it as a necessity, and it becomes a default. The process is becoming shorter and shorter. Consumption has become something that we see as only right and proper.

A lifestyle with 'material satisfaction as the highest aim'
This is modern society — a lifestyle revolving around consumption and with material satisfaction as the highest aim. The problem is that when new technology becomes a default in our lives, it can no longer bring us happiness or a sense of fulfillment. On the contrary, an absence of these defaults can make us unhappy. This kind of lifestyle leads to higher and higher default levels, and an ever-greater desire to consume.

When the resources that support this consumption have all but disappeared, and the environment can no longer take the strain, it will be too late to cancel these default settings. It is much easier to go from simplicity to extravagance, than to go from extravagance to simplicity. It has always been this way.

From extravagance to simplicity: So what do TreeHugger readers think? How much does a voluntary move towards simplicity in your life, your expectations, play into your concept of environmentalism? A little bit, not at all, somewhere in between? Do you think the author has a point or is she just articulating another version of the familiar "Back in my day, we had to walk to school through two feet of snow, uphill, both ways" refrain, in which every generation indulges itself to some degree?

via :: China Dialogue
Sustainable Development, Natural Resources
Culture and Heritage for Sustainable Development: Bioregional Lavender
Why do Americans Think They Deserve to Eat More Than Indians?
Peak Everything: Eight Things We Are Running Out of and Why

Related Content on