Toxic Consumerism


A recent trip to California’s  two largest metroplexs has provided me, as usual, with much food for thought. Why, after all, would one want to live in the San Francisco Bay Area or LA? It’s the same reason that famously led Willie Sutton to rob banks – it’s where the money is.

Indeed, myself and wife Kathy have two extended families who reside in the Bay Area, and for that very reason. Doing what they do, they could not make it anywhere else. The four bread-winners are managing to raise families, pay mortgages and stay entertained. One commutes to work by bike and ferry, another is whisked across the bay by BART, a third works from home and the fourth runs a small business in an adjacent community. Not such bad commutes. Both families live in nice communities, and you can’t beat  northern California for weather, a variety of scenery and fun things to do. Every flower imaginable was blooming in early April. On street after street, the front yards were botanical showplaces. And yet …

Alameda, CA

Myself and wife Kathy, on the other hand, could not (now) live in such a mega-urban environment, even though I was raised in NYC and Kathy in the LA area. We have both become very used to the rural environment of northern New Mexico, and find cities to be, simply, too full of people. And, more to the point of this blog, those vast numbers of city people are consuming stuff like nobody’s business.

A news item stated that yesterday (4/14/2012), San Francisco Bay was visited by the largest ship ever to sail through the Golden Gate, headed to the massive docking facilities of Oakland. The ship was, of course, a container vessel, carrying an unimaginable tonnage of consumer goods, no doubt from China. The Port of Oakland was the first on the West Coast to build a container cargo capability, and is now the fifth largest such port in the US – and, as such, was a natural target for the Occupy movement, not so many months ago.

Port of Oakland and the Bay Bridge, seen from San Francisco

There are those, on the other hand, that are celebrating this latest advance in the world’s consumer goods delivery capability. I, for one, am happy to get new Macs from China. But let me use this Mac that I now type into, to inveigh against the tide of consumerism that, like the anticipated catastrophic rise in  sea level, will wash our civilization away.

No easy task, of course, to slow and then turn this economic juggernaut around. No easier than bringing that bigger-than-ever container ship about. But what choice do we now have?

Two of the Bay Area family members mentioned above have recently committed themselves to multi-week de-toxifying programs, also no easy task and I congratulate them for making the effort. Now, can we, the world’s champion consumers, commit ourselves to a similar de-toxifying effort – an effort to free ourselves of toxic consumption.

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
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