Warning: Are You a Narcissistic Consumer?
Human beings have become a cancer-like tumor in Nature; meaning, we take and use everything for ourselves, irrespective of the environment. But just as cancer dies along with the organism that it attacks, so will humanity if it does not transform itself into a healthy organ in the organism of Nature.
To understand why humanity is behaving in this irresponsible and irrational manner, we need to take a closer look at human nature. Biologist Elisabet Sahtouris explains: “Every molecule, every cell, every organ…has self-interest.” Yet, self-interest does not mean that humankind must be oblivious to the fact that maintaining the well-being of the organism—as in the organism of humanity—is in one’s self-interest.
What obscures this bigger picture is our sense of entitlement, a narcissistic trait. Psychologists Jean M. Twenge and Keith Campbell describe our society as “increasingly narcissistic.” In their insightful book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, Twenge and Campbell talk about “the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture” and the problems it causes. They explain: “The United States is currently suffering from an epidemic of narcissism….From the 1980s to the present, narcissistic personality traits among college students rose just as fast as obesity.”
Webster’s Dictionary (a comprehensive dictionary of the English language), defines narcissism as “egoism.” This—to be blunt—means that we have become unbearably selfish.
This overblown egoism has led us to develop a culture of consumerism, which entails the aggressive production, marketing, and consumption of goods and services, not because those products genuinely improve our lives, but because we can show them off. We buy because others buy, because we don’t want to be “left behind.”
Can We Afford This Disregard of Nature?
This culture of consumerism—driven by egoism—has caused every industry to accelerate its production, resulting in a slew of redundancies that are produced at an alarming rate. The result is an alarming pollution of the planet and depletion of its resources, only to cater to the never-ending pursuit of wealth and social status. But, there is a limit to everything, and we have nearly reached the end of our rope.
Following the publication of an 2011 International Energy Agency (IEA) report titled, International Energy Outlook 2011, Fatih Birol (chief economist at the agency) tells Fiona Harvey of The Guardian: “The door is closing. I am very worried—if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety.] The door will be closed forever.”
Similarly, a digest by Yale University states: “A draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says there is a 2-in-3 probability that human-caused climate change is already leading to an increase in extreme weather events. The draft summary…said that increasingly wild weather…will lead to a growing toll in lost lives and property damage, and will render some locations ‘increasingly marginal as places to live.’”
Humankind’s lack of concern for the environment has already been disastrous to our most vital needs— our sources of food and water. Already—according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “Over fishing…is devastating fish populations. Over 75 percent of fisheries are already fully exploited or over fished.”
Also alarming, Ian Sample of The Guardian writes, “Some 40% of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded. The UN millennium ecosystem assessment ranked land degradation among the world’s greatest environmental challenges, claiming it risked destabilizing societies, endangering food security, and increasing poverty.”
But the facts about water—the most essential substance for all life—are the most alarming. An official publication by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) details the harm and danger of drinking unsafe water: “Almost fifty per cent of the developing world’s population—2.5 billion people—lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more. Without WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), sustainable development is impossible.”
With respect to food, CNN Asia Business Analyst, Ramy Inocencio, reports: “The world wastes 30% of all food….30% of all food produced in the world each year is wasted or lost.” Referencing a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, he goes on to say: “That’s about 1.3 billion tons, “That’s as if each person in China, the world’s most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, had a one ton mass of food they could just throw into the trash can….Breaking apart that big number, we find the people with the most money are the ones who waste the most….And these numbers come as we’ve just been reporting about soaring food prices around the world in the past week.” Summing everything up, he concludes: “A major change of mindset is what is needed.”
Everyone Cares About Malnutrition and Hunger, or Should!
Indeed, a change of mindset is needed. Our individual—and collective—mindset must shift to that of mutual guarantee. In a society that embraces mutual guarantee, no one will throw food into the trash as long as there are still people in the world going hungry. With mutual guarantee, this would be tantamount to letting some members of the global family starve while other members—of that same family—gorge to the point of obesity!
Michel Camdessus—former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 13 years—explains the connection between the state of the economy, the state of the environment, and the lack of mutual guarantee (which he sees as the origin of both crises): “What has taken place is a kind of ethical, global problem. For years and years, we have allowed all the sound warnings…to the financial actors to moderate their financial appetites, to care about the community, to care about their neighbors—all these principles have been forgotten. We must reestablish a kind of global, ethical system, which is missing….Both of them [the financial and environmental crises] find their origins in the over-exploitation of the natural resources or of the economic mechanisms. All of that means that all of us must rethink our own conception models; we must all be more conscious that in the years to come we’ll have more responsibilities.”
In short, these responsibilities are mutual. In our modern, global, interdependent world, only mutual guarantee and complementing cooperation can pull us out of the crises, out of all the troubles that befall us today.
Written by Michael Laitman
Michael Laitman is a global thinker dedicated to generating a transformational shift in society through a new global education, which he views as the key to solving the most pressing issues of our time. He is the Founder of the ARI Institute, Professor of Ontology & Theory of Knowledge, PhD in Philosophy, MS in Medical Cybernetics. You can find him on Google+, YouTube and Twitter