Week 11, Prompt 1: Homo Economicus

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Since the beginning of this course we have been discussing the effect that man has on the environment as he or she attempts to reach new heights technologically, socially, and economically. Our progress as the human race is immeasurable through creativity and technology, however, at some point it is bounded by the natural limits of the environment. Thomas Malthus in “An Essay on the Principle of Population” first proposed that the geometric growth of the population would always be greater than the arithmetic growth of the earth’s natural resources. Henry Thoreau in “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” presented a solution to this idea by proposing that progress is unnecessary and inhibits our ability to live minimally because of a desire for efficiency and economic gain. While these pieces of literature have been in circulation for hundreds of years, a majority of individuals of the human species never adopted their ideas and principles. Rather, they chose to over consume and fall into the modern trap of consumerism.

At some point individuals living in developed nations, especially the United States, have to draw a line and say, “enough is enough.” A combination of collaborative consumption practices and a value system where goods and well-being are separate are necessary in order for this new mindset to be effective. Collaborative consumption is a type of economic arrangement in which consumers share access to products and services rather than owning them outright. This allows for consumers to still gain a sense of enjoyment or usefulness from a product or service without having paid for it in full. This also leads to a decrease in overconsumption and is, to an extent, a type of recycling. It is also important for a value system where goods and well-being are separate to be implemented. Consumers must acknowledge the fact that our sole purpose in life is not to merely earn a salary and purchase goods and services that advertisers place in front of us. Our well-being should be placed on the resources that are vital to our health, the experiences that we can share with one another, and the interactions that we can have with nature. In order to reach a sense of sustainability, overconsumption must be reduced to an acceptable level that is in accordance with the resources that are available to us.

I believe that developing nations should use the past mistakes of developed nations in order to create an efficient and effective strategy for growth and sustainability, which requires developed nations to have an interest other than their own.  Developing nations should strive to create systems that work with the environment, not against it. This is not for the reason that the developed countries have a right to more of the natural resources than they do, but rather to increase the sustainability of the nations future success. It is difficult to sustainably stabilize a population and decrease consumption, however, it is not impossible. The need to do so just has to be present.

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2 responses »

  1. I agree with the idea that collaborative consumption practices and a value system where goods and well-being are separate are needed in order to change the constant desire to consume in our society. Collaborative consumption will give developed nations the ability to continue to buy luxurious secondary products that they do not need for survival, but would like to have at certain times. It means that less resources would go in to making a product because one product would be enough to share with multiple people. A system where goods and well-being are separate is important because humans must realize the true value of life. Humans continue to share the anthropomorphic idea that consumption makes one happy. However, studies have shown that well-being is not correlated with consumption

    The idea that developing countries must learn from mistakes of developed countries is interesting. Although this may be effective, developing countries may still follow the same steps simply for the desire to industrialize and advance in technology. Developed countries must help developing nations by supplying them with methods to create environmentally friendly forms of energy and products.

  2. It would be very interesting to see a developing country undergo a green version of industrial revolution. It would set a good precedence for the future. Would this country be China? As an emerging leader in green technology, it’s also by far the worst polluter we have at the current time.

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