My family call me ‘ThAJ’ – throw-away-Jenny – because I have a bad habit of throwing things away. I used to justify my behaviour as ‘decluttering,’ but lately, I’ve – somewhat belatedly – come to appreciate that my behaviour is a consequence of the disposable culture in which we live.
Anything we don’t need or want – plastic food wrapping, empty toilet rolls, broken cutlery, empty shampoo bottles, moth-eaten jumpers, etc. – we throw in the bin. Some things go in the recycling bin, which, we believe, makes our throw-away behaviour ok, but the reality is that only a tiny per cent of the all the rubbish that ends up in the recycling bin is ultimately recycled. The rest just adds to the growing mountain of waste that can’t or won’t be recycled or reused.
I can’t remember the last time I mended something rather than chuck it in the bin. When things are cheap, why bother fixing them when you can simply by new ones? The truth is, we need to bother because our disposable behaviour cannot be sustained without severe consequences for our planet.
The belief in economic growth as the paramount marker of progress is problematic for many reasons, not least because it fails to consider the fact that while the potential for economic growth may be limitless, our planet’s resources are not.
While I commend those that seek to live an ‘eco-friendly’ life, something I aspire to as well, we’re not going to save the earth, and ourselves, by eating less meat, recycling, reducing plastic, etc. While these actions are necessary, they are not sufficient. What is needed, is more than reform of the current economic system; we need to replace it with a system that supports the earth rather than exploits it. If we don’t, capitalism will destroy our planet.
No, I am not advocating socialism; instead, I believe we need to look beyond both socialism and capitalism to explore the possibility – and necessity – of creating a new, sustainable, system.
All of this may sound a bit rich coming from me, a bona fide shopaholic, whose comfortable lifestyle wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for capitalism. I’m the first to admit that my eco credentials are negligible, but even so, I am fully committed to improving my cred, because nothing frightens me more than the prospect of humanity destroying the earth. I’ll happily give up needless shopping, meat, plastic, and whatever else is necessary, to ensure my future grandchildren inherit a healthy planet.
While behavioural change is a start, it won’t be enough. To have a fighting chance of saving our beautiful planet, we must think and act radically. Reform won’t suffice. We need a revolution.
Meanwhile, I’ll be mending that jumper I nearly threw in the bin last night.