It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And I don’t just mean the arrival here in the Far Northern Hinterlands of the season’s first big snow. I mean the scene out at the mall and inside the SuperMegaMonsterMart, where our great nation is currently engaged in the fine art of spending an estimated $474 billion holiday bucks on, well… just stuff.
It’s a weird phenomenon, this shopping thing. I never did quite get it. Though I confess I can browse a good book store or record shop for days, I can’t see the appeal of general shopping as entertainment. I like to know what I need, make sure I really do need it, then go in, get it, and get out fast. I cringe every time I hear an economist talk about how consumer spending is the lynchpin of the American economy. We’re all depending on shopping?! That’s the gas in our collective economic engine? That’s a little weird. Because all the stuff people are buying has to come from somewhere, be made of something, and go some place when it dies.
There’s an excellent new film premiering online today that looks at all this. It’s a 20-minute documentary from activist Annie Leonard called the Story of Stuff that examines the real costs of consumption and the sort of big giant hamster wheel that we’ve become trapped on.
Check it out, pass it along, take it viral. (The website also has some good resources and other ideas to explore.) There’s a lot more people could be doing than shopping and they’d be a lot happier doing it. (What say we build our economy on environmental restoration, for example?) Sure we need some stuff. But we’re way overdoing it and paying for all the things we buy in a lot more ways than one.