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Don't Buy, Give!

Jay Shofet
November 18, 2015

SPNI youth activity. Photo: Hen Portugali

The Culture of Consumption is Killing Us

You might not have heard yet that the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving has a name, and a very important purpose. Giving Tuesday, this December 1, is the result of a global movement pushing back against a holiday season of consumer extravagance.  So after the mass sales of Black Friday and the online shopping boom of Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to focus on giving rather than consuming.

Reducing consumption is one of the most important, fundamental challenges that face us.  The average American consumes more than his or her weight in products each day and consumption per capita is continuing to spiral upward.  Such trends are not a natural consequence of economic growth but the result of deliberate efforts by businesses to win over consumers, so brilliantly detailed in the ground-breaking video The Story of Stuff, which convincingly shows how our "materials economy" is not sustainable. Planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence are just two of the main tricks of the trade to get us to buy, buy, buy.  This global culture of excess that could wipe out any gains from government action on climate change, or even a shift to a clean energy economy.

I once heard Annie Leonard, the producer of The Story of Stuff, talk about a letter she received from one of the 20 million people world-wide who viewed her video. It was from a woman in Texas who wrote saying that she didn't realize how detrimental is the problem of overconsumption, and now that she has seen the video, she doesn't feel it is right to take her 3 school-aged daughters to the mall to shop every Sunday. She ended the letter with a plaintive query, which speaks volumes about the ubiquitous nature of this crisis: "What", the woman wanted to know, "can we do on Sundays instead?"

Israel National Trail. Photo: Eyal Horev, Elie Peper

How about  we take a cue from the state of Vermont, where the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is teaming up with some doctors with a plan to get more people outside and exercising by having the physicians write "prescriptions" that are really free passes to any Vermont State Park.  The "Park Prescription" program is designed to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues by encouraging exercise at state parks, combining the physical benefits of exercise with the mental and emotional benefits of spending time in nature.

Here in Israel, SPNI meets the challenges of consumer excess in two important ways: we advocate and advance sustainable practices for government, industry, and the public, and we provide quality nature-based experiences and nature education for millions of Israelis every year.  By supporting ASPNI on Giving Tuesday, you will be making a statement for the importance of nature in our material world.

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to giving, and perhaps, for a bit, getting out of our malls and into nature!  Both of these acts will do us a world of good.


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Category: Our Global Community

Tagged under: Giving Tuesday, Sustainable living