Black Friday is upon us again. Another year in the books, another year of excess consumption that sits at the core of our increasingly disconnected culture and rapidly disintegrating environment we depend on for life.
The Earth is unable to withstand our behaviors and habits and yet we continue to ignore the environmental degradation that is worsening every day. We as a human society are taking from the earth far more than Earth can regenerate, a notion encapsulated in a concept called Resource Overshoot.
This year’s Earth Overshoot Day (which in actuality is data from 2016 due to time delays in data compilation) was in late July. That means we, as humans, have been on borrowed time since then. We will be using the resources of 1.75 Earths this year. And if all humans lived like those in the United States, 5 Earths would be required to sustain our ecological footprint in homeostasis with the regenerative biocapacity of Earth. We are heading down a path of collapse and we can not stand idly by. After all, we are facing a future where, for many humans on Earth, the lives of the generations that come after us will be much worse off than our own.
It’s hard for us to wrap our brains around the nature of this problem due to its sheer complexity. The world economy consists of so many moving pieces and never any coherent long-term planning. Everything and every one is siloed. There are so many inefficiencies that cause unnecessary harm and waste. But while the solutions to the impending catastrophe we are facing are larger-order in nature, there is one immediate action we can all do: Stop buying so much sh*t.
This is easier said than done of course, especially when the sole purpose of one of the most powerful industries in the world, the advertising industry, is to get people to buy sh*t they don’t need (in most cases with money they don’t have). It’s easier said than done when our entire modern culture is built around status, a status determined by what we own rather than who we are. It’s easier said than done when our Instagram feeds are flooded with “Sale!” on every advertisement. It’s easier said than done given endless consumption is now embedded into the fabric of our lives and thoughts.
And it’s easier said than done when the consequences of our actions don’t create immediate pain for ourselves.
We will be using the resources of 1.75 Earths this year.
Take an average shirt, for example. The cotton it was produced from required immense quantities of water and pesticides, thus devastating the water tables and agricultural lands of the region it was cultivated from. The often untreated wastewater from chemical dyes pollute local waterways, which ultimately finds its way into the oceans around the globe. The shirt is then put on a cargo ship, transported often by sea from one side of the world to the other, causing immense pollution and emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gasses along the way. Of course, this only scratches the surface.
But as we approach another annual tradition of madness, excess and destruction called Black Friday, we wanted to highlight the growing segment of people, movements and companies leading the way in changing our world culture defined by consumption.
Extinction Rebellion is leading a year-long boycott of buying new clothes, highlighting the fact that textile production alone increases greenhouse gas production more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined and will only be getting worse in the next decade.
REI continues again with its #OptOutside Black Friday campaign. Stores are closed, employees enjoy a day off, and customers are urged to opt outside and volunteer in cleanup efforts. Most importantly, REI, as a brand that makes money from selling consumer goods, is directly challenging consumerism and the mindless consumption that epitomizes our behavior.
Many purpose-driven companies that emphasize the importance of sustainability continue to sell on Black Friday, discounted sales and all. This is no indictment on them because, after all, our culture of consumption is far larger than any given company or industry. They’re simply playing by the rules of the game. Yet nonetheless, if we want any hope of providing a quality future for humanity on Earth, we must change the game. And it starts with ending Black Friday and resisting our addiction of buying so much sh*t.