Consumerism is to our society what cancer is to our body, said Michael Dowd at the Integral Spiritual Experience. He brings attention to our evolutionary conundrum – why would we consume the reources of the planet in the same way that cancer cells consume the energy of the body?
But how can we measure when we are in the zone of adequate sufficiency? Christian Arnsperger of Eco-Transitions suggests that Existential Ecological Economics – an economics that examines the roots of prosperity and happiness might offer a measuring stick. He says: “Economics ought to be about nothing else than maintaining human beings between … two thresholds — [where prosperity emerges because we are] neither too despondent nor too affluent.”
Christian places the lower threshold A, as lacking in economic infrastructure. The upper threshold B, is the reality where we are overwhelmed by economic infrastructure. He explains further: “Below A, your existential integration is bad-to-mediocre because of sheer lack, and it improves only slowly as you get somewhat less poor, picking up speed as you reach threshold A. Between A and B, you can develop your potential for existential integration by actually using the economic infrastructure to enhance your integration — that is, by using health care and transport and clothing and food to pursue and perfect your relationships, sexuality, religious quest, and so on. Above B, however, as material wealth continues to climb your existential integration dwindles, and you might get so caught up in the absurdities of large wealth that you could drop to pre-A integration levels. The factors that account for these threshold effects can either be linked to (a) the unanticipated external effects of infrastructure buildup, such as the degradation of social relations and the degradation of environmental conditions; or they can be linked to (b) the unconscious internal effects of infrastructure buildup, such as the alienation suffered in meaningless work, in mindless accumulation, or in mechanical consumption. ([Christian calls] the former “bio-environmental externalities” and the latter ‘anthropo-environmental internalities.’ ” (Read the whole blog here.)
It seems then, that we must be aware of both external and internal measures of consumerism and the “sweet spot” that is the zone for genuine happiness and prosperity. This kind of intelligent mindfulness might eradicate the cancer of both body and planet.