1. As Fred Pearce agrues in his recent study, it is consumption in developed countries that is the most danger to the environment. This is in contrast to the usual argument of population in developing countries being the biggest threat to world ecology. Rather than blame poor people for wishing to live better lives, environmentally-minded individuals living in wealthy countries should look instead to their own habits and desires. By reducing their own consumption of finite resources, they will be doing much to aid the environment as well as the lifestyle of poorer nations.

    Although there is much that can be accomplished through changing consumption–buying organic vegetables rather than those farmed using pesticides, for example–the environment can benefit by individuals’ reducing or stopping consumption. Unfortunately, many can easily justify their wants, even converting those wants into needs. Endless products tempt consumers and convince them that they truly need these things in their life. As more companies target their marketing toward green living, then it makes it even more difficult to distinguish these needs from wants. Advertising for a product’s green aspects certainly makes it easier for anyone to legitimize their purchases. For instance, buying a new organic t-shirt that will partially fund aid projects in developing countries could be seen as a purchase that will have a positive impact. Perhaps this money might be better used in a direct donation to a non-profit organization. These ethical evaluations must be made by each person in order to satisfy their moral understanding of consumption and misuse of resources.

    Consumption not only harms the environment but also maintains people’s need to remain in debt and work endless hours at jobs they hate. While difficult, reevaluating these wants can free the individual in the long term. For instance, utilizing public library resources will save the individual’s money as well as reduce the production of these books and movies. Without these excess purchases, the consumer can save this money or use it for other necessary expenditures, such as food or household bills. While living a frugal life does not necessarily mean a more environmentally friendly one, reducing wants will bring the two in line. Previous generations took frugality for granted in their daily lives; mending clothes and reusing items were seen as natural, obvious choices. This allowed for a measure of saving that is not seen in today’s families, even those who have not been directly affected by a difficult economy.

    Of course, population will always be an important consideration in any evaluation of world environmental impact. Each day, though, people have an opportunity to make decisions that will have a positive effect on the environment as well as their pocketbook. Learning from those who lived in previous generations, individuals can live frugal, green lives.

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