Thursday, September 4, 2008

Affluence

I often think to myself that money is freedom. The less money you have, the more you have to focus on meeting basic needs. Once you have more than the basic amount that works for your family, you can work on meeting Maslow's hierarchy of needs (morality, self-actualization and so forth) or even (since I really am a Carol Gilligan lover myself) strengthening relationships as the end goal. My Achilles heel of consumption is definitely buying people rockin' presents (stuff I could easily deny myself, hmmm). But I digress...

For the upcoming APLS (Affluent People Living Simply) Carnival (which you can participate in if you send your entry to aplscarnival at gmail dot com by Sept. 10), we were tasked with thinking about what it means to be affluent. I guess a lot of folks commented about how uncomfortable they were calling themselves affluent. Myself? Not so much. C'mon, you know your parents used to invoke starving children all over the world when you wouldn't eat your dried-out meatloaf. Even if your station wagon *did* have a rusted-out floor that reminded y'all of the Flintstones. Even if your neighbor retired at 40 to sail around the world. In the relative sense, I would venture to say that lots of us with the time and resources to blog are probably affluent.

I am affluent because I can afford to spend my free time poking around the interwebs researching product safety. Because I can, as part of a family vacation, stop by BlogHer to meet fellow enviro-mama bloggers that I now pepper with daily questions and green business ideas (ok, that really means: make this! this safe product! for my kiiiiids!).

I have competing goals when I am considering purchases or actions. First and foremost, I consider health and safety for my kids. Is this plastic going to leach into my child's food and cause her harm? Does tuna have levels of mercury that will damage my child's developing brain? And so forth.

On the other hand, as a mother, I also consider it my duty to keep the earth's air and water clean, and resources undepleted, not only for my children but for their children and for all of the other kids around the world who aren't as, well, affluent as my kids. And I would venture to say that to one degree or another, lots of us who have pets consider most animals to be in need of protection as well. Not to mention the earth itself, which is a pretty magical ecosystem.

So: safety/health, protection, stewardship. I consider those my competing demands when thinking about, say, what to make for dinner. Or what type of clothing to get for my toddler (thanks, Big Green Purse! we love the Maggie's Organics athletic socks). Or even whether we choose to simply stop consuming. You know the list.

It is truly fortunate that our family has the resources (money, time, education) to consider making choices that reflect our values. I recognize that not everyone is affluent in this particular way, and not everyone has my same decision-making schema. That's why being greener-than-thou is so ridiculous. I so appreciate being able to be neurotic thoughtful about my life-worth-living, and love doing so in the company of others who are thinking about many of the same issues. Hats off to the green blogosphere! Thanks for giving me so much to think about -- and to act on.

5 comments:

Green Bean said...

Great point! We are affluent because we have the ability to make choices, to figure out what matters and what to do about it.

hippyhappyhay said...

Wow, great post. I really do understand the simple living, and think that as a family with four kids we do okay with this. I know, we can always do more, but thanks for not coming across as judgemental mamabird.

Nora Bee said...

Your definition of affluence is going to stick with me for awhile--thanks.

eco 'burban mom said...

I too grew up with the "children are starving in Africa, so you MUST eat this, wear this, do this" routine. And, as annoying as it was to a 12 year old, it did stick with me. I agree, having endless resources, choices and the luxury of free time does not in any way make me feel ashamed to call myself affluent!!

Lisa Milton said...

I think your approach invites those who have maybe felt that little steps weren't enough and just gave up, new breath.

I'm with Nora; your definition is going to stay with me.