Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy Nothing Day 2008

Once again, I'm happily participating in the Buy Nothing Day event that the Adbusters folks kind of started. There were a few comments by others posted on their web site that I'd like to address.

The comment that seems to come up mostly goes like: "This is stupid -- why should I buy something at full retail price and avoid the sales on Black Friday?" My opinion on this is that if you planned to buy something anyway and have been waiting for the sales, then by all means buy it. However, what a large majority of people do is go out to the stores with the sole purpose of impulse-buying anything that has a good price. The retail stores want to keep impulse-shoppers shopping.

Then comes the declaration, "If you don't buy something you will push our economy into further turmoil and people will start losing their jobs!" This is the exact issue that that Buy Nothing Day is trying to address. When our economy is so sensitive that it requires people to purchase things they don't really need one day out of the year, then it indicates something is much more wrong. People are going to lose their jobs anyway, whether or not Buy Nothing Day goes forward. So instead of everyone making a mad dash to the stores on Friday, they do it on Saturday. The stores will still get their customers and less people will be killing each other trying to get a "good deal" on some object they probably don't need anyway.

The idea of Buy Nothing Day is for people to take a moment to consider whether they really need more things, and to look at potential alternatives to buying stuff as a recreational activity. Instead of flocking to the stores to buy stuff you'll probably use only once (but you got a great deal on), go to a friend's house and have some Thanksgiving leftovers and play board games. Go do some volunteer work. The idea is that rather than increasing your personal collection of stuff, it's a day to begin to get more meaning from life by spending it with other people (or animals, sometimes, in my case).

This is one of the reasons I support the idea of having no children. Let's face it, a large part of the problem with the economy is that there are just too many people. As technology improves the number of jobs done by people decreases. If you increase the population and decrease the number of jobs, that's a recipe for disaster, like we're seeing now. The only way that we can sustain positive population growth is for all of those people to do something that will create jobs, and the quickest way for that to happen is for them to rampently consume. Keep in mind that most retail jobs don't pay enough to sustain a family (meaning, both heads-of-household need to work at least one job to support the family). As people rampently consume, the environment and our available natural resources suffer, and the prices increase. This is not a cycle that promotes good stewardship of the planet or our society in general. This cycle is not sustainable. It is not good for families. It is not good for community. It is not good for much of anything. People who value things more than other living beings find themselves always trying to have more than their neighbor. This promotes crime, violence, and other social problems. The only way to break the cycle is to limit the population.

Like with most everything, though, the short-term Band-Aid looks a lot more attractive than a long-term fix. I don't expect that people will figure this out anytime soon. We have a bunch of religious zealots who have dug up the "be fruitful and multiply" mantra out-of-context as a justification for their thoughtless lifestyle. Still other people feel their life would not be complete without a little human in their midst. To all of you, I give this thought: What kind of world do you think your kids are going to inhabit at the current rate of population increase and with our current lifestyle becoming less sustainable over time? Do you really feel justified in forcing that kind of life onto another human being? Think about it... Buy Nothing Day makes time to do just that: Think. Think first.

For more information about population control and its economic impacts, see the Population Connection web site (

I'd also like to take a second to urge Adbusters to find some other way than Flash to make their movies available. Stream MP4 video or something like that, or at least make it an option.

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