Giving it All Away | Seventh Generation
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Giving it All Away

Author: sheila hollender

Last week I attended the United Nations Social Innovation Summit in New York City. As always at such conferences, there were many brilliant speakers, innovators and giant conglomerates talking about their sustainability agenda in an era when to not to do so would be a sign of immoral capitalism.

Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder of Seventh Generation, was a moderator on a panel consisting of the sustainability directors of Coca-Cola, Intel, and Verizon. He questioned what limited their commitment to sustainability. Their answers, for the most part, dealt with balancing shareholder value against sustainability.

And so it went as the day wore on -- until something wonderful happened. A middle-aged , long-haired movie director named Tom Shadyac turned the conference on its head. The very successful director of movies such as Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, and Bruce Almighty, challenged us with the question, "Why do we need so much?" So much money, so much stuff, so much desire to possess material goods which comes at such a cost to the environment? He spoke of the natural world, of how the redwoods take only the water they need from the earth, how the lion kills only what he needs to eat. Shadyac was very passionate about the notion that taking more than we need from the environment can only lead to a devastating end for humankind.

Shadyac's movie, I Am, tackles the issues that we, as a society, need to consider if we want to continue on. We lucky ones have enough. It's time to share it with the homeless, jobless, penniless members of our beautiful planet.



ogrewife picture
I agree with Liz. At all economic levels we are rewarded for spending, not saving. I for one came from a very poor home. Yes, we even went with out eating, a phone, heat, and electricity at times. Now that I am an adult, I waited until I was 28 to get a credit card, I have gone to college, and yet I still have this urge to purchase things every week. I know that not every week do I NEED to spend, but every week I find myself going to one store or another. I also have to have stores of food otherwise I freak out. My poor husband and sister are the exact opposite in the food storage, but are grateful when they open up the cupboards and I of course have food. I know it is wrong of me, and every time I deny myself, I hurt in a way that is not describable. I fully believe that it is for many reasons though that we spend (no matter our income level).
NYCChica picture
I think the problem is that most of us have bought into, (pardon the pun), the idea of a consumer-based economy. This has been an issue I have struggled with for some time and have finally accepted that most stuff is just stuff and when I die I won't be taking any of it with me. That's not to say I don't enjoy having a nice TV, or buying a new dress once in a while, but I don't trash the old version just because a newer model/style comes out. I try to buy the best quality I can and use it until it's completely worn out, even if that takes many, many years. I prefer to spend my money in better ways, like donating to help others and supporting the arts. I prefer to spend my time with friends and family rather than shopping for the newest, the latest, the greatest thing-a-ma-bob that advertisers insist I "have to have." I think it's telling that several people I knew who were wealthy and chose to hoard their wealth and show off their collections at every opportunity had very few people at their funerals to celebrate their lives. Meanwhile, other friends who lived simply and gave of themselves to others had services that were standing-room only.
ruttlebug picture
There is something in us that is connected to the all of life. We are becoming aware of that something and it is motivating us to see the connection between our past human and environmental actions and the resulting harm to ourselves and the earth. In a word, we are becoming more conscious. We are connecting the dots. That consciousness contains everything. It is and contains the all of life. That consciousness is within and all around us. We are connected to it, we live in it, it lives in us. It is motivating us to inquire about sustainability and organics and electric cars. It may be true that the quest for more and more comes from a much deeper place than the enticement of easy credit . Perhaps the easy credit is the second step. Like shredded cheddar cheese on a bowl of chili. The easy credit makes the getting more enticing doable. But what if the reason we want more and more is because we are aware on some level, that we are all that and we want to experience all that. But somehow we have come to believe that the more we have the more we are. And we sincerely do want to be. In the past we have been, at any cost. To ourselves and earth. Now we are asking the good question. Why do we need so much? Why do we need to have so much? I believe it is the eternal quest to somehow touch the all that we are. We are just going about it in a external way, rather than an internal way. This does not negate the external search and developement for the next IPad. The internal way, knowing oneself deeply, may lead to the question of "Do I really need such and such", especially when it will involve going into unnecessary financial debt. It may also lead to creating the next IPad in a environemntally healthy way. Or the next non toxic bathroom cleaner. As long as I believe the more I have the more I am, the hysterical quest to be at the big box store at 4am for the after thanksgiving sale will drive me. Or to buy a bigger house I can not afford. The easy credit is just the icing on the cake. It is I that feel the drive to have more and more, never questioning that urge. I am not, in any way, suggesting we stop shopping or having. We need to survive. I am sugggesting it is I who feels the pull for more and more and doesn't question it and consider, without lieing to myself, the resulting cost of having it. Perhaps there is a way to have it all, without HAVING it at all. Realize who and what we are that is not dependent on what we have. a spiritual response to a material question.
Liz picture
bottom line is...our government rewards spending and debt and punishes saving. we are rewarded and encouraged to buy. don't have the money? just charge it! you may not have to pay off the debt and it might be tax deductible.