Hey, are you going to buy that?

Winnie’s Your Turn Challenge trigger for me today is a tricky one. “Tell us about something that you think should be improved.” 

I think a short story best gets my point across.

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Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth. On that planet lived a species called humans. The humans were very intelligent. They could think and use their complex brains to problem solve and invent “things” that made life easier, safer, more convenient, faster, and all and all more pleasant, increasing their chances of survival. At some point humans decided that the things that were invented couldn’t just be given away, there needed to be some type of compensation to “pay” for the things. Even the things necessary for basic survival had to be bought. The idea continued to mutate. The more humans paid for things, the “wealthier” some humans became, which increased the desire for more “wealth,” and in turn, more things. A vicious cycle began. The wealthy humans began to neglect the humans that were “poor,” seeing them in some way as not “worthy.” Statistics of disease, hunger, lack of education, overpopulation, and unnecessary death crept higher and higher among populations on the planet. The wealthy also began to ignore the health of the planet from which the resources were harvested to make the things that humans wanted to buy. The planet’s delicate ecological balance started to fight back with enduring droughts, uncontrollable wildfires, record breaking hot temperatures, severe flooding, rising sea levels, and more frequent deadly storms.

The desire for more wealth became so strong that it kept the already wealthy humans in a suspended slumber of denial about the health of the planet being directly responsible for human survival, and the intrinsic truth that deep down we are all equal; we are all humans with thoughts, desires, feelings, and basic survival needs. The established “governments” side with the wealthy to suppress the poor and pollute the earth because they too are the “wealthy” and increasing their own wealth is more important than working to restructure a system that supports all humanity and the planet. Many of them are so entrenched they begin to actively block the attempts some humans propose to restructure these destructive systems.

Televisions, iPads, laptops, and smartphones, teaming with advertisements and “what’s-hot” media, keep the masses entranced and ready to head to the store to buy more stuff so the cycle continues to thrive. Apathy and distraction grip the minds of the young so the grogginess isn’t lifted, no new votes are cast, and the broken system thrives on, ultimately, at the humans demise. Earth continues to spin around the sun and rebuilds itself, slowly but surely, after the humans are extinct.

There is no true love’s kiss to wake this sleeping beauty

That is us, and we are at a crucial point now. Many of us are awake, but a majority are still asleep. The disillusionment is maddening, and I don’t have the answer for how to lift this fog from over our eyes.

Only through my Small Acts can I try to live and share a message I think will improve this awareness. A life and story that inspires a willingness to look past having the latest iPhone, new sneakers, or brand new cars, and say, “I’m okay with what I have. It’s enough. I don’t need any new stuff. What good have I done lately?”

You don’t have to be a hipster to eat organic and buy local

Of course economy is a necessary aspect in our current human system and we aren’t going to stop buying things. The improvement is the awareness and the willingness to do the research to make a smart choice about the product that I’m buying. The improvement is the willingness to stop choosing convenience over conscience. Where did it come from? Who made it? What materials were used to make it? Who is benefitting if I buy this product, other than me? I try to learn and then do my best to support the “better” option. If it’s local or it’s helping support a small sustainable business in the developing part of the world that’s a better option because I’m not feeding the pockets of the already wealthy. If it’s organic then I’m not feeding myself toxic chemicals and I’m probably supporting a small farmer somewhere.

Of course not everything fits into those categories these days, but spending money in these areas sends a message to the market that the consumers want those types of products. Ultimately, we are in control because we are the ones spending the money that those at the top so desperately want.We just have to "wake up" and make the choice to care and then act accordingly.

Progress, not perfection

Finally, just ask yourself if it’s something you really need, and do your best to take Small Acts in changing your habits and willingness to buy smart. I’m not perfect at this by any means, and it’s only of late that I’ve made the effort, but it’s incredibly rewarding to know that my money is contributing to something positive and might help us stand a chance at survival on this planet. Buy less, but when you do buy, buy smart.

For a more in depth explanation of these concepts, watch The Story of Stuff and The Story of Solutions.