|My shoes, with holes both top and bottom.|
This, I'm not afraid to say, is absurd. We are living beyond our own and the planet's means, but the maintained view is that we need to spend more, getting us further into debt and putting more pressure on our natural resources.
"So what's, your answer, smarty-pant, let our banks crash, unemployment run rife and reduce our quality of life to pre-industrial standards?"
No! My answer is to invest!
Investing is very similar to spending - almost identical, in fact - apart from the one distinction: that investment gives a stable or increasing return over time, where spending is instantaneously exhausted as the product or service is "consumed", leaving behind waste (which in itself takes more time and money to dispose of).
The distinction is still not clear, however, because we must answer the question as to whether the return on an investment has to be monetary, because if not, then surely lots of things we spend out money on are investments. I would say that it doesn't: A child's teddy, to take an example, may provide a return many times its price-tag in the pleasure and comfort it brings to that person throughout their life, making it a great investment, whilst a cheap plastic toy may provide merely minutes of entertainment before being discarded, firmly placing it in the category of consumer spending, and a drain on natural resources that could have gone into something which provided a significantly larger well-being benefit over a longer period of time.
Many people aren't very good at looking at their purchases as investments, and with good reason - it goes against human nature! Practically from birth our instinct is that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Then at some point we learn the story about teaching the hungry man how to fish, rather than giving him a fish, and all becomes clear about the benefits of investment, rather than instant gratification. You would hope that from this point onwards, we would haven't learned and assessed both the short-term and long-term gains of our pursuits, but then advertising keeps on tempting us to satisfy our immediate desires, and we fall prey once again to unsustainable consumption.
So, whilst I've been looking for a new pair of shoes over the last few days, I've been asking myself whether they are a pair that I can wear day-in-day-out and still last me several years. I've also been looking at where they're made (Britain preferred), and what materials and processes contributed to their manufacture (to judge whether they are investment for the planet as well as myself, or merely a drain on natural resources). Alas so far I have been unsuccessful in finding a pair that fits the bill, and I'm sure that I'm going to have to compromise on something, even when I do find a pair!
But my point is this: if each of our purchases were seen as an investment, giving return of money, health or satisfaction in the greatest amount over the longest possible time, then what things would we stop buying, and what would we spend our money on instead?