Capitalism On Earth Day

I may never truly understand most millenials. Their propensity to consume, consume, consume, and then blame others for their problems in life is agonizingly perplexing to me. Their comfort with debt is something I don’t think I will ever attain, nor do I want to. The impacts of consumption beyond merely the financial hit me hard today. As you know it is Earth Day, a day which provides a good excuse for us to stop our otherwise busy lives and reflect on our surroundings. I didn’t have anything special planned today, so I set off early in the morning with my dog to explore some of the back country in our newly home state of Oregon. Moving up from Southern California, the beauty here puts me in awe. Southern California is beautiful in its own right with its warm sandy beaches, unique desert landscapes (said to have inspired Dr. Seuss, who resided in La Jolla), and awesome sunsets. The landscape in Oregon is of a completely different world; lush greenery as far as the eye can see, waterfalls and flowing rivers and giant thick forests of trees.

Well, for the most part anyways. While out on my walk this morning I was forced to realize just how many of these trees are being cut down. It’s a little sad to see these beautiful hillsides cut down into barren landscapes, with only two foot tall trunks in remembrance of the beautiful giants that once populated this land. This disappointment must be tempered by the realism that people require shelter, and most people will desire more than just basic structures and living appointments. It is true that there are other ways of obtaining these things than cutting down trees; other building materials which may be more environmentally friendly. I am no expert on this subject, but perhaps you are.

That is where free market capitalism comes in to play. It seems that so many people have forgotten the power that we hold as consumers. Maybe it’s because they have given in to marketing and feel that the things they buy are in fact needs and not wants. This can easily be proven false; but with a very few exceptions, if you choose not to buy from a given company, they will cease to exist, but you will not. So on this Earth Day 2018, remember that if you want to make a difference for the environment, it’s as simple as putting thought and care into your purchasing habits. Stop buying crap you don’t need that only temporarily increases your happiness (this is called hedonic adaptation, which I’ll expand on in a later article), and choose to buy items made from sustainable materials sold by responsible companies whenever possible, or buy more things second hand. By doing this, you are exercising your power as a consumer and making your voice heard in a way which, if ignored, is done so only at the peril of those companies who choose to do so.

The Notion of Voluntarism

Recently I found myself in a Facebook “discussion” with someone, regarding the image shown above. My argument went something along the lines of pointing out that if the birds in the image were acting of their own self-accord, without force from some other entity then this was not communism, or even socialism, but rather voluntarism.

The original poster laughed at this assertion, giving me the proverbial pat on the head at my innocence. “How could this possibly be voluntarism?” She cried. “In a voluntaristic society the brown bird would be left behind unless he could pay the blue birds!” She then proceeded to spout off a bunch of terms such as anarcho-communism among others, which apparently explained this comic better than voluntarism; at least to her.

Since I was unfamiliar with many of the terms she used, I figured perhaps she was unfamiliar with the true definition of the term voluntarism, so I thoughtfully provided the Merriam-Webster definition of the word, it is: “the principle or system of doing something by or relying on voluntary action or volunteers“. Seemed like a pretty good fit to me, but she still wasn’t buying it and insisted that I was not seeing the image correctly. Apparently I was too focused on the hammer and sickle, and not focused enough on the color black in the background. Well, this was getting truly confusing to me now as I had no idea which parts of the comic strip were supposed to have meaning and which weren’t, so I decided to leave the conversation at that point.

My question now is, was this person seeing something in the image that I’m missing that makes it not voluntarism, or was she arguing with the dictionary?