Get Invoved with WCTM:
How Wealth Disparity Could Jeopardize Sustainability…

How Wealth Disparity Could Jeopardize Sustainability…

One of the topics we discussed as we laid out our ideas for We Consume Too Much was that the American Dream, as currently constructed, may be antithetical to a sustainable present and future.

Accelerated consumerism, and the carbon footprint it creates, is a big component of the American Dream. A house for everyone, a car or two for everyone, travel, expendable income for all kinds of goods shipped in from all over the world: these are the concrete evidence that the American Dream’s promises of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity are actually being fulfilled.

This week I was listening to an NPR guest talk about Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s trip to Houston in the late 1980s, a few years before the fall of the Soviet Union, and how Yeltsin was blown away by the cornucopia offered up in a suburban grocery store (Yeltsin had not watched the documentary “King Corn” of course). This was proof for Yeltsin that Americans had it better. Well, we did and we do, without question, from a materialist perspective.

But there is a big problem here. We are already using up the resources of the planet at an unsustainable rate. Yet we look to either the Republican or Democratic Party, or any party for that matter, to make it easier for us to use up these resources. We define the success or failure of our leaders based on how easy they make it for us to consume. We have to ask if this is the right direction to go.

At the same time, with the American brand of capitalism, we have created an economic system that has generated tremendous wealth disparity. It really seems unfair, to me at least, to go to someone in utter poverty and ask them to “stay poor” because their carbon footprint is probably smaller, because they are poor. They want the American Dream as it has been defined by the culture and is being lived by many members of the culture.

It seems to me that wealth disparity will make it harder for us to choose a sustainable future, because the “togetherness” that a more economically homogenous culture might rely on as it makes mutually beneficial, but tough choices seems to be missing in America.


No comments yet.

Add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to Newsletter