In the face of the current recession, it is probably hard to believe that we Americans are 4.5 times richer than were our great grandparents at the turn of the century. One billion of the earth's residents live in unprecedented luxury, while one billion live in destitution. Those in the wealthiest 1/5, probably not you or I, are responsible for the lion's share of the damage that humans cause on this planet. They also fund the omnipresent advertising messages that create our shopping culture and give us false identity in our material search for social status in this massive and anonymous society. Even the government favors consumption and the spread of commercial markets into most aspects of our private lives.
At one time, we could count the rules of ethical behavior on just two hands. Today it is the basic value of a sustainable society through the equivalent of the Golden Rule we must seek. Buddha and Jesus wouldn't argue with that each generation should meet its needs without jeopardizing the prospects of, future generations to meet their needs. For individuals, the decision to live a life of sufficiency is to find their own answer to the question of how much is enough?
The goal is to put consumption in its proper place among the many sources of fulfillment and to find ways to live within the means of the earth. Rich societies have had little success in turning consumption into fulfillment. There is little difference between the definition of happiness found between the rich and the very poor nations. Consumption itself has little to do with that which inspires, or the true bonds of love and friendship. It would be naive to believe that entire population will suddenly experience a moral awakening, renouncing greed, envy and avarice.
At least 1.5 billion people live in the middle class in this country, and that’s you and I. We must try to curb personal appetites and resist the tide of external forces encouraging us to consume. For three of the most ecologically important types of consumption - transportation, diet and the use of raw materials, we must try to drive less, eat less red meat, and recycle, reuse, repair and restore more.
As man's eye opens to God's earth, so shall God's heart open to man!