The Consumer Blues

Okay, so ideally, you give something back to the world, right? You consume resources and stuff, but hopefully you do things that are so nice that it makes up for all that. So like your net impact on the world is -1 because you ate food and created greenhouse gases, but it’s +10 because you also invented a cure for some disease, or you made truck tires 8% more efficient, or something, so in the end you’re +9.

It’s a long time of being a -1 before you start being a +10. I mean, I’m certainly not there yet. And indeed, a long time of being a -2 or -3. (living the high tech life with all my airplane tickets and fancy coffees and computers and almonds is not exactly the most low-impact kind of thing.)

I’m operating on the assumption that it’s best to go -3 for a long time and then be +100. Like, if new shoes or a new computer would make my life go a little smoother, go for it; optimize my life in order to make myself a better human, not worry so much about the cost, and know that all these improvements will make me eventually a powerful producing force of good. (the alternative is to be kind of ascetic: live in a tent and be No Impact Man, reduce my negatives to -0.25. But if that hurts my ability to do good in the future, making me a +40 instead of +100, that’s not so good.)

However, it is hard to feel like you’re a -3 for your first 30 years and just sort of go on faith that eventually you’ll make up for it.


Sarah -

This short series put it in perspective for me, albeit it doesn’t reference the consumer part of it:

Dan -

Argh, I forgot my headphones today! But if it’s the same as this post and this post, then right, it helps with the feelings of being a failure (which, I’ll be honest, do exist; I’m in grad school), but not with the feelings of being a drain on society. Well, I guess it does offer hope that the years of +100 are out there, and so maybe I’ll become Da Vinci and nobody will even question “but how many plastic bottles did he throw away?” I suppose that’s a good way to think about it. (I like his ideas, too, of offering more stories of people struggling through the difficult apprentice years.)

Aaron -

Sup Dan! Tim sent me here

Dan -

Hi Aaron! Wait, which Aaron? And which Tim?

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