Our culture is one of extreme consumption. Yet most of us know deep down that we don’t really need the newest car, fastest technology or latest clothing. We consume these things because we want them.
The media tells us that in order to fit into our desired social groups we need to belong through consumption. But this consumption comes at a cost, as illustrated by photographer Chris Jordan
In 2006, Chris Jordan began his “Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait” series. Whilst American-based, his images offer a clear directive to mankind: it’s time to sweat the small stuff. You know that insignificant little mobile phone you threw away last year in place of a newer model? Well, it matters.
<a href="http://arcadenw.org/blog/the-art-of-waste-the-photography-of-chris-jordan">Image Credit: Chris Jordan</a>
What about the other teensy bits of plastic you accumulate before tossing in the trash? Yep, that’s sometimes the worst of all.
<a href="http://inland360.com/culture/2015/02/mirrors-of-bone-and-plastic-artist-chris-jordan-speaks-about-consumer-culture/">Image credit: Chris Jordan, courtesy of Insand360</a>
These harsh but very real images serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. At the most fundamental level
we can think about the environmental pressures put on this planet as a result of our want for more
. Production, after all, is only for the purpose of consumption.
More internet, more cars, more clothes, more television, more alcohol, more social media, more gadgets, more things… we’re a society of wanting more. Some minimalists might even say that we are suffering from a “more virus”.
If we don’t want more, we don’t need it produced. That goes for plastic and mobile phones, as well as cars, houses and all the furnishings that go inside. All consumption has environmental impacts, therefore lessening the scale can surely lead to a healthier planet.
If you find yourself asking the question, “Do I agree with the mainstream idea of consumerism?” it could be time you thought of a lifestyle change. It’s time you look at consumerism truthfully, and the truth is that less is more. It boils down to quality of life, and the realisation that having more things doesn’t necessarily equate to a richer life.
Leading an intentional life
Much like vegans
do when choosing to shy away from meat, cheese and dairy, minimalists evaluate what is truly important. They ask “What actually brings me joy” and “What do I love?”. They sell, donate, or throw away the items that do not hold value in their life and the results provide clarity and lightness. Quite often a minimalist will find a life of meaning without distraction.
Again like veganism, the decision to adopt a minimalist lifestyle is a personal choice. It’s a mindset that requires you to take a step back from the status quo and the natural human desire to collect things. It’s not easy, but it could be worth it once you’ve taken the plunge. Here are a few of the benefits of minimalist living.
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it. Take travelling for example. Many non-minimalists are reluctant to travel due to the burden of the things they have to leave behind.
When we fill our lives with distraction, it’s difficult to find the time and space to enjoy the simple things in life, like spending time with our loved ones, exercising, getting creative, cooking, or just doing nothing. We’re so busy being overwhelmed by physical, digital and mental clutter, which can lead to increased anxiety and an overall sense of dissatisfaction. What happens is that we then try to gain a sense of fulfillment by buying more stuff. It’s a repetitive cycle.
Much of the minimalist movement origins hail from Japanese life and culture. “Ma” is essential to spatial awareness and translates as “space” or “gap” in Japanese. Ma is an understanding, a state of comprehension within the mind and negative space; that is the space around and between an object. It’s about understanding that silence has meaning and that spatial awareness can lead to life with intention.
There’s no denying that overconsumption has contributed to climate change. In fact, according to a study entitled Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption
, what people consume is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Another study suggests that the world is consuming 50% more
than what’s environmentally sustainable.
Minimalists consume less and buy less, meaning their eco footprints are lighter. Take clothing for example. Non-minimalists are today buying 400% more clothes
than they did 20 years ago, resulting in 2 billion pairs of jeans being made every year. Imagine how many litres of water is needed when just one pair takes 10,000 litres of water
Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from the overwhelming feelings of guilt, depression and worry about not having enough. Have you ever felt envy when watching a new Ferrari (or even a Tesla) roll past your 2003 Hyundai Elantra? Imagine having the freedom not to care. Life would be good, right?
Making the switch
The idea behind minimalism is valid. It might not win the revolution or solve climate change, but it can change your perspective and allow you to shift your lifestyle in positive ways. Your actions ultimately influence the market and economic system, so why not try living in ways that are more sustainable and ecological?
At Cruelty Free Superannuation, we’re passionately committed to reducing our environmental footprint and the amount of human and animal suffering that sadly happens every day. We believe in our shared human right to dignity and opportunity, and believe in everyone having a chance to live with freedom from cruelty. Switch your super to Cruelty Free and start living with freedom.
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About the author: Noelle Greenwood
Noelle has been a passionate advocate for human rights since she walked her first 'walk against want' as a 10 year old. Her formative years were spent under her parent's wing in rallies, marches and kazoo-bands. All of this in the fairly conservative region of North Queensland, it's needless to say that activism is in her blood. As she's transitioned into making more conscious consumer choices across different aspects of her life, she's become more and more interested in the plight of creatures who are systematically harmed, exploited and killed for no good reason. Noelle likes to write about human rights, animal rights, climate change, feminism, indigenous issues, LGBTIQ issues, and generally anything that will spark a healthy argument with some of her right-wing acquaintances (the ones that are up for a healthy argument, anyway!).