What if everyone spent like I did, bought the things I bought… invested in the things I invested in?
As we enter a new year, it’s an interesting question to contemplate. I think all of us have this idea that “If everyone were like me, the world would be a better place.”
Most of us want to do right… hope we’re doing right… and don’t see ourselves as society’s problem. We see other people – you know, those guys over there. If they would just think right, do right and buy right, we’d have a better world.
Indeed, if they were just “more like me,” we’d have a better world.
So as a fun exercise, I’m going to imagine my spending being the norm and see what we’d have and what we wouldn’t.
Huge sectors of our economy would simply not exist; others that currently don’t exist would become huge.
Seven Ways to Change the World
- Zero bottled water and soft drinks and zero breakfast cereals. Instead, we’d spend way more on in-home water purification systems. We’d all become religious about hauling around our own vacuum water bottles. I have a couple of these, and they’re unbelievable at keeping hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold for extremely long periods. We have the technology and gizmos to do this. Let’s leverage it.
And breakfast cereal? Who needs all that processed grain?
- Zero fashion industry. That’s not to say we wouldn’t see innovations in clothing. I’m all for that. A friend who does leatherworking for a hobby just made me a set of horse leather suspenders. Let me tell you, these babies are the bee’s knees. But I don’t need to strut down a runway to show them off. Everyone who sees them remarks on how cool they are. Who needs glitz? If the design works, great. But to spend money on clothes just because they’re hot and trendy… what a waste of time and money.
- Zero gambling of any type. No lottery, no gaming casinos, no buying chances for fundraisers. Forget the idea you can get something for nothing. Instead, invest all that money in soil-building food. Visit farms, and become skilled in judging who is a good farmer and who isn’t. Then throw your money at the good ones. If all the money currently spent on systems that promise something for nothing was instead invested in food systems that have integrity and the farmers who produce them, we’d have different stewardship on our farmland ecology.
- Zero professional sports. In fact, I don’t even have a TV. If I want to see something, I can go places to see it. Or I can see highlights on the computer. But to sit and watch professional sports – even college sports – for hours on end when I could actually be reading something, doing something or learning something useful? Come on. What would we talk about instead? Meaningful things.
Think about the amount of money that would free up in the economy. I’m going somewhere with all this: I’m confident we have enough money to right every wrong that’s out there – every single one. We just misspend. But let’s keep going…
- Zero McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardee’s, Taco Bell, Chik-fil-A – you get the idea. They are a blight on our society and our farming systems. Instead, pack leftovers – we have these neat high-tech cooler duffels now. All it takes is a smidgen of mindfulness and organization. Pulling the plug on these outfits would fundamentally change farming and what it looks like on the land.
- Zero chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides. All those huge facilities with miles of valves and stainless steel pipes… gone. Instead – and this is a biggie – we’d put all that money into carbon… not some cap-and-trade gimmick, but real, honest-to-goodness value. On our farm, we fertilize using carbon that we get primarily from chipping wood.
Like the permaculture folks say, we need more forest and fewer trees. Our forests have become overgrown and weedy with poor and crooked stems. We need an entire and massive industry managing our woodlands so they don’t burn (that saves $5 billion a year in firefighting costs alone), and then we can use that carbon for on-farm composting programs.
This patronage switch would empty the chemical industry and put all those people in forest weeding crews – creating visceral relationships with our ecological umbilical. We would grow soil instead of killing it; grow earthworms instead of killing them; increase nutritional quality rather than depleting it. Then we could have fewer hospitals. How about that for a switch? Biomass would become valuable, like gold.
- Zero processed food, from frozen pizza and canned vegetables to Campbell’s soup. That money would instead go into local food systems, patronizing our own food shed. We’d build resilience and food security in our own neighborhoods. Farmers would begin growing far more diverse foods. The hostile urban-rural divide would become a mutual appreciation. Urban folks would see their rural neighbors as friends instead of foes. Rural folks would see their urban neighbors as cheerleaders rather than disconnected, mindless cheapskates.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it does give you an idea of what would happen if people were to spend like I do.
Is it perfect? Do you have a better plan? We can’t do everything at once… but as Paul Harvey used to say, “We can do something at once.”
I submit that the above changes would so revolutionize our society that we can hardly imagine the next permutation.
What would you add or subtract from this list? Send your thoughts here.