Jan 10, 2013 at 3:33 pm #1297874
Every time I buy a new piece of gear, or even ponder the idea, I feel guilty. When I do buy, I seek out "Made in the USA", or purchase second hand. In the last decade, I have succeeded the vast majority of the time. As much back patting I can give myself, that only alleviates some guilt, however. Many, if not most, US made items are made from materials from abroad. This just means the pollution created during its manufacture, and the resources used to make it, are out of my immediate sight. Doesn't make it any less of a problem for other humans and species though. It doesn't mean my family, and yours, aren't affected either…however long after the fact or indirectly it is. Pollutants and various toxins are found in every corner of the globe and in every living species. There are so many toxins in the Arctic people, those we would think were most immune, that they are told not to breastfeed their children. Then there is the landscape itself….mountaintops and forests the world over, raped and pillaged, indigenous people and the biodiversity they depend on displaced and destroyed. All because I lust for the newest and latest piece of gear. I can rationalize it to death but, the truth of the matter is, 99 out of 100 times, I do not need it. My desire is nothing but a form of greed hiding within my ego.
I feel guilty for all that I have purchased. I try to do right by abstaining from most of what I'd like to have. I try to live right in other aspects of my life…giving consideration to those who will come after me, living simply…practically. I am not perfect but I am aware.Jan 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm #1942639
Well said, and I often feel like I am buying things I don't really have to have too. But think about your hobby of backpacking compared to other hobbies. Its much better than all the lawn chemicals and equipment needed for golf. Its likely more world-friendly than racing cigarette boats. The list can go on and on. You could do a lot worse.Jan 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm #1942648
Yes, thanks, Ben. I agree that, compared to some past-times, backpacking is fairly low impact. However, isn't that just more rationalization? The fact still remains….that I contribute to the problem every time I buy a new piece of gear. I am a single raindrop that chipped in to the flood.Jan 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm #1942653
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"The fact still remains….that I contribute to the problem every time I buy a new piece of gear. I am a single raindrop that chipped in to the flood."
I applaud your awareness.Jan 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm #1942665
Want to avoid toxins, pollution, and human costs in your daily life?
It's tough, but everything we do can be connected to these costs. Simply shopping in your local supermarket is probably the worst offender. Most towns have 2 days worth of food at any given time- the shelves are kept full because the image of a full supermarket is embedded in the american consciousness. Truck after truck fills them before they empty, and a huge amount of food is thrown out.
What's an "aware" and socially conscious citizen to do? Easy!
Offset the negatives associated with our global culture with positives in your own life. Be a force for good. Volunteer your time, donate your extra money to campaigns for clean water, and make sure you recycle electronics in a socially conscious way (re: not at your local dump, they "recycle" by shipping it to Indonesia.)
Buy from local farms, and bike to work. Do your part. If you're chipping in, your conscience can rest easy knowing it contributed. nothing is going to change the third world manufacturing trend; the best thing you can do is donate to improve their lives and avoid being a conscious part of the problem.
-MJan 10, 2013 at 5:22 pm #1942676
@mammomanLocale: NE AL
Excellent post Max. Merely being a living human on this earth is bad enough. Do what you can to offset your presence.Jan 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm #1942696
@m-lLocale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
The darkest hour is just before the dawn, and my theory is that pollution and inefficiency aren't as bad now as they will in the future. What it comes down to is greed, going green costs more money simple as that! Even the founders, CEO's, and presidents just care about their paycheck, and not enviromental concerns 50 years from now because their children can clean up. These are the companies who might determine how you commute to work. Whether its a Prius or the bus, and the shape of the plastic container you are drinking your water from right now.Jan 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm #1942702
"What it comes down to is greed…."
You got that right!
"…..going green costs more money simple as that!"
Yes it does. But "going green" is a consumer trap….and little more than veneer. It's a fashion statement.
The term "green" lost its meaning long ago, just like Christmas…due to its commercialization. Being practical on the other hand….that is what "green" use to mean, before the hand of greed raped it of its substance. The term "practical" isn't trendy though. It doesn't sell. But what has become of us if we don't think beyond selling and buying? The people we are today. And regardless of how much I do to offset that, I still have a sense of guilt.Jan 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm #1942707
We live in a dominant culture in which destruction, exploitation, and mistreatment of others (including non-humans) has become such the standard, most people are completely desensitized. We do a good job of hiding most of it. What we don't hide, we normalize.
The fact you're expressing some degree of guilt or sadness over the state of affairs, have questions about how you contribute, and confusion about what your role is- be it positive or negative- tells me that you haven't had your senses completely numbed, at least not yet.
Why wouldn't a compassionate person, especially one coming from the relative abundance and consumption of this culture, feel a degree of guilt when looking at this world?
I reckon someone calloused to all this madness will pop up on this thread and call you a whiner, tell you to put up or shut up, or tell you that you can't live on this planet without destroying things so get over it and be grateful for what you do have.
If that struggle and sadness in me were to ever disappear, if I ever got over "it", I'm afraid it would mean I've lost my compassion for others.Jan 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm #1942716
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
If you feel guilty, why do you buy? Quit consuming. Check your premise — if a contraction exists, your premise is false.Jan 11, 2013 at 5:34 am #1942791
@gregpehrsonLocale: playa del caballo blanco
I don't read this post as just about gear shopping, rather the overwhelmedness of injustice and your (OP's) thoughts on how you are complicit in it.
I think you're coming at this from a good starting place of concern and connectedness.
But guilt is a paralyzing emotion.
Set that guilt on fire with the flames of anger at injustice, then temper those flames with love into hot embers that can keep the heat on for a lifetime of action, without burnout.
Chomsky has said on numerous occasions (paraphrased): "Almost every time I speak in the US, people ask me, 'What can/should I be doing in an unjust world?' I never get that question when I speak throughout the Global South, rather, people tell me, 'This is what we're doing–who else should we be connecting with?'"
Just as responsibility for the problem is shared, so too is the responsibility for the solution. Be a drop in the flood of the solution, too, connecting with others who are taking action so you can see the cumulative effects.
Harriet Tubman wore clothes of plantation cotton, yet her contribution to the liberation of enslaved women and men was tremendous, and beautiful. She did what she believed would allow her life to have the most impact.
Pick one thing that is significant to you, and go all in. Help make the trickle of solutions into a roaring river.Jan 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm #1942930
Shhhh, Nick! Only us desert rats that have probably read too much of ol' Ed Abbey understand that kind of simple logic. Of course we do have a tendency to boil our brains
To the OP, seriously look at your argument. There is a simple solution to your problem of guilty buying, stop buying. If that's impossible then come to terms with what you are, a consumer. Your whole post seems to seek absolution for your behavior and solace for your guilt far more than it seeks to "better the world."
For those advocating offsetting your impact by positive actions in other areas…well If I murder 1 orphan, how many disadvantaged children must I save to "compensate?" Don't fall into the trap of "green-washing" your actions. A prius does save in CO2 emissions but the manufacture of a prius (primarily the batteries and electronics) has such a detrimental impact on the environment that some analysis say they are on par if not worse than traditional automobiles. The planet is rather complex, one good action can cause harm somewhere else, and vice versa. Consumer behavior is important but unfortunately it only important in the way of pressuring macro-scale policy to change for the greater good.Jan 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm #1942956
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
A more apt title may be "The Guilty Pleasure of Buying New Gear". Because, c'mon, we DO have pleasure in new gear.
I call it "New Item Worship". I'm still having pride-of-ownership guilty pleasures over my new Scarp 2 tent. Even more so with my list of mods that is all finished but one final mod. When I'm finished I'll know it will better stand up to bad winter weather.
Then there is the exquisite pleasure of USING new gear and finding it works very well. Most of us have so many years of experience we can usually tell ahead of time whether our new gear will fufill our expectations. Can't wait for the next snow front to move in so I can test the Scarp "2.1" in the Spring Mountains north of the 'Vegas valley.
BUT TO THE DEEPER PHIOSOPHICAL QUESTION OF CONSUMERISM:
When I look at a huge motorhome PULLING an SUV and think "Excessive excess" I realize just how small my own backpacking environmental footprint really is. Then I don't agonize over buying that new tent or stove that I'll use for at least a decade.
And by being a Sierra Club officer in my state I do make a contribution, over and over, toward a more sustainable environment.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.Jan 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm #1943023
I was not making an argument…….and neither seeking nor needing absolution, from anyone. I was simply stating my feelings with idle time…and more importantly, sowing some seeds. I like to do that, in the ground and Online.
Re the Prius thing, there was a 450+ page report from a 2001 study called "Dust to Dust". It concluded that, in the whole scope of things, the Hummer had less impact than the Prius. It immediately came under fire with those seeking to debunk it. That's beside the point. What sticks out in my mind most in the study was the reason many purchased the Prius: Image.
Thanks to Craig, Greg, and the others who had something positive to contribute.Jan 11, 2013 at 7:37 pm #1943025
I've done research on the Prius. It was debunked because it was wrong. I'd be happy to provide evidence. Greenpeace started the campaign, but the research didn't hold up in the slightest. The Prius isn't perfect and before like, 2004, they weren't even recycling their Li batteries, but today it's a clear difference.
So, don't buy in to extremist opinions ;)Jan 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm #1943038
Unless you need it ..
Use stuff till it dies
Its that simple ;)
Youll likely spend more time outside rather than doing virtual gear lists on bplJan 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm #1943040
Thanks, Max. I wasn't buying into either side….though I do admit to believing that image is one of the driving factors in many Prius purchases.Jan 12, 2013 at 4:41 am #1943096
I have to agree with just how small our own backpacking environmental impact is compared to the "big stuff".
An experience as a teenager has stuck with me for a long time. I was the guy in my group of friends that pretty much did all the "good" things. One of those things was not contributing to roadside littering and when I saw friends do something like throw a candy bar wrapper out the car window, Id say something- making a joke out of it, but getting my point across that your hurting the environment. Not two seconds later, a garbage truck turns in front of us as we are driving. From the back of it, papers, wrappers, and junk in general is flying every which way. In a matter of seconds it has put more trash on the ground than me or my friends would be able to in our lifetimes with just a bit of care.
I realize that all of us together can make a big difference, but not nearly the difference that just a few "big" polluters could if they were so inclined.Jan 13, 2013 at 6:07 pm #1943520
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
An old New England Yankee saying:
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."
Those flinty old farmers had to be frugal. Often those fields grew more rocks than crops.
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