Denial of the Real Environmental Costs Created by Christmas' Frenzied Over-Consumption...Dystopic

Yesterday was Super Saturday - the last Saturday before Christmas - and typically the pinnacle of frenzied consumption by North Americans. Year after year Super Saturday is the day when individual's credit card usage peaks regardless of the level of existing debt they have. It's a 'Perfect Storm' of retailer strategy and consumer psychology. Psychologists call it 'intertemporal choice', which in shopping terms pits a concrete reward now (gift) versus abstract consequences later (not being able to pay the bills).

Retailers swamp consumers with sound, color, offers, ads and invitations to buy more stuff. Consumer spending drives the modern capitalist economies of the world and the over-consumption at Christmas demonstrates more clearly than at any other time that our economies operate in a 'sanitized' mode that increasingly removes consumers from the processes of the supply chain. The mall's music and sales disguise the fact that shoppers have simply outsourced the pollution footprint of their over-consumption along with the hard work and emissions to nations such as China.

A large part of what makes shopping so attractive as an activity, not just at Christmas but all times, is that many of the products on display have a large embodied energy content - carbon footprint that we rarely are confronted with the reality of and even more rarely pay the full price of. Embodied content means the cumulative quantity of energy consumed, GHGs emitted and other pollution generated in extraction, manufacturing and delivering to market the raw materials and finished products we buy. These unpaid  externalized costs [in accounting terminology] are the monies that capitalist claim as profit. But these 'here  and now' unpaid costs will be have to paid someday by our descendants one way or another.

To these life cycle product costs a full energy footprint accounting of our retail therapy costs would add the fuel consumed in driving to, as well as the energy needed to run the malls themselves. Then there's other dead-weight losses that a full accounting would include when measuring the real costs of Christmas on the environment , for instance, material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter and landfill.

This dystopia of denial about the real costs of consumer capitalism on the pollution destroying the bioshpere that underlies human existence is the most depressing thing about living in what so often feels like an alien world to me. But i'm heartened when i realize i'm not alone and that there's a way to say enough and join a movement dedicated to living simply - Buy Nothing Christmas, originally an initiative started by Canadian Mennonites and open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.

Buy Nothing Christmas has been taken up by Adbusters as a perfect extension of their widely popular anti-consumerism cause. Buy Nothing Christmas is a stress-reliever that more people need to hear about and embrace. A person can change their world by simply by changing their mind, and by extension, change the destructive path of the larger populations' denial of their part in the disease of consumer capitalism.