Consumption & Earth Day

Yesterday, on the annual celebration of Earth Day, I was helping to organize an estate sale in Ohio.  Such events can be emotional for family members as they sort through the detritus of their loved one's life, constantly reminded of the passions that governed their existence.  Yet, the experience also calls attention to the massive amount of possessions that we tend to accumulate during our time on Earth.

In fact, personal consumption, magnified by the ever increasing human population, is perhaps the greatest threat to our natural ecosystems, fueling industrial production, residential and commercial development, habitat destruction, pollution of our air and water, deforestation, depletion of mineral resources and overfishing, among other negative environmental effects.  We each contribute to that process, whether through direct purchases, investment in commercial enterprises or through political support for industries that negatively impact natural ecosystems.

While the celebration of Earth Day has become commercialized itself, it is a good time to reflect on how we might reduce our personal consumption and make every effort to recycle what we do own.  Indeed, estate sales are a form of recycling, encouraging others to reuse the belongings of one who can no longer benefit from their utility, keeping them out of landfills and reducing the need for new products.  Of course, retailers and economists may not agree.