The UK’s recent petrol crisis was caused by many individuals doing the same thing at the same time.
Due to media stories, people’s behaviour suddenly changed, causing nationwide problems. When I commented to the attendant, “I bet you’ve been popular these last few days”, he replied, “Yes, I’m everybody’s best friend! It’s madness. We’ve got plenty of petrol – it’s just that people are buying much more than normal.” It was people’s consumerism that was the problem.
After decades of being labelled ‘consumers’ and being urged to buy more, build more, spend more, eat out more and consume more in general as a good thing – in order to keep our invisible, invented, impossible, infinite, imaginary economy pyramid always growing, is it any wonder that so many people responded in this extraordinarily unhelpful way?
It’s a perfect example of where this deliberate policy of encouragement of ‘consumer-ism’ leads us.
As if we needed any more wake up calls!
The huge global crises of covid and climate change, we are told by the world’s top scientists, are “unequivocally” caused by our human behaviour. It’s definite. It’s us as a species who are responsible.
So knowing that humans respond rapidly to information (or dis-information), whether in an awe-inspiring socially helpful way as we have seen so much of over the last 20 months, or in a self-serving way, we know we can move fast where there’s a will.
If the true extent of the climate crisis and its cause were clearly flagged up, and the anti-consumer or citizen message was loud and clear, “Buy less, use less, shop less, travel less, eat less, waste less”, could the powerful community mentality that helped Britons survive the World Wars help us survive the rapidly looming chaos caused by ecological destruction?
If we all suddenly change our behaviours and dramatically slow down our consumption, then maybe it will be possible.
We are so much more than consumers – we are brave humans whose hearts fill with compassion.
My brother was born when food rationing was still in place. Do we take for granted the sacrifices of others so much that we really expect there always to be plenty for us?
Or can we honour our courageous ancestors by emulating their massive dedication to the common good as an act of Remembrance?