Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recovery and Sustainability: Are We Worth It?

A friend of mine is taking a continuing ed class in sustainability and I get to look over her shoulders. One of the blogs brought to the student’s attention is Within that blog, I just read the article The Rise and Fall of Consumer Cultures by Erik Assadourian. In his introduction, Assadourian tells of a 2009 documentary called The Age of Stupid where an imagined post-apocalyptic commentator questions why humans walked such a destructive path. He asks if it was because “on some level we weren’t sure that we were worth saving?”

While I assume neither the documentary’s creator nor Assadourian would link their comments to codependence, I find it interesting that codependence is engendered from a feeling that we are not good enough — not worthy of value or even, perhaps, worth saving.

Assadourian goes on to say that
“[p]reventing the collapse of human civilization requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns. This transformation would reject consumerism — the cultural orientation that leads people to find meaning, contentment, and acceptance through what they consume—as taboo and establish in its place a new cultural framework centered on sustainability”.
From my perspective, then, if consumerism is about people attempting to find a sense of internal value through what they consume, then consumerism is yet another facet of codependence and, by virtue of that, codependence is at the root of non-sustainable living. Yet another reason to move into recovery.

I highly encourage you to read the article for yourself but here are some of the more fascinating (and scary) points:

• The Ecological Footprint Indicator, which compares humanity’s ecological impact with the amount of productive land and sea area available to supply key ecosystem services, shows that humanity now uses the resources and services of 1.3 Earths. In other words, people are using about a third more of Earth’s capacity than is available…

• … if everyone lived like Americans [read also Canadians], Earth could sustain only 1.4 billion people. At slightly lower consumption levels, though still high, the planet could support 2.1 billion people. But even at middle-income levels—the equivalent of what people in Jordan and Thailand earn on average today—Earth can sustain fewer people than are alive today. These numbers convey a reality that few want to confront: in today’s world of 6.8 billion, modern consumption patterns—even at relatively basic levels—are not sustainable.
• Air pollution, the average loss of 7 million hectares of forests per year, soil erosion, the annual production of over 100 million tons of hazardous waste, abusive labor practices driven by the desire to produce more and cheaper consumer goods, obesity, increasing time stress—the list could go on and on. All these problems are often treated separately, even as many of their roots trace back to current consumption patterns.

• [The] $60-billion[bottled water] industry sold 241 billion liters of water in 2008, more than double the amount sold in 2000. Through its global advertising efforts, the industry has helped create the impression that bottled water is healthier, tastier, and more fashionable than publicly supplied water, even as studies have found some bottled water brands to be less safe than public tap water and to cost 240 to 10,000 times as much.
For information on how to calculate your personal ecological footprint go to and for a carbon footprint go to

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