Sunday, November 27, 2011

...what, exactly, is the reason for the season?

By kay.e.strong

…hyping holiday bargains the first weekend of October

…fifty-five shopping days front-loaded onto the traditional holiday season

…even before the thanksgiving turkey has digested, millions lept headlong from Red Thursday into the Black Friday frenzy

…pepper-spray becomes the defensive tool of choice for “bargain” hunters

…gun-toters brandish their weapon to motivate those in line ahead of them

…counter stampedes injury fellow shoppers

…police knock a shopper unconscious

…a mugging goes badly; victim left shot and bleeding in the parking lot

Given the evidence, I’d conclude the reason for the season is to celebrate the value Americans are world-renown for: “self-righteous” greed. Self-righteous, in sense that, we truly believe in our entitlement to stake a claim to all that money can buy.  Because the American economy--with a bit of help from the might-makes-right department—consistently spins an oversized share—a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product (14.5/ 63 trillion dollars in 2010)—to Americans, we assert a god-given right to shop 'til we drop.  Despite overflowing closets, packed garages, and self-storage units and mini-warehouses, Americans seem unable to satiate their lust for stuff.

To regain perspective on the reason for the season, let’s check out our Ecological Footprint < >. An Ecological Footprint is a metric that calculates humanity’s demand on nature. More specifically, “[i]t aims to show the interdependence between a country’s biocapacity, its economy and ultimately, the well-being of its people.”

The Ecological and Biocapacity Report for 2007 shows America--an ecological debtor nation.  Americans consume 8.0 hectares (of global resources) per capita and our nation’s biocapacity is 3.9 hectares per capita, thus, our ecological deficit—yup, chalk up another one for us—is 4.1 hectares per capita—translated: a 4.1 hectares deficit per every man, woman and child in the country.  According to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), a non-profit organization, if everyone in the world lived the lifestyle of the average America, we would need five planets.  But we have only one planet, one future—from which all peoples have an entitlement to live satisfying lives.

As the economic winds of world fortune shift ever more easterly, the excesses of Americans will be put in check.  GFN reminds us that “[a]s resource pressures escalate, ecological wealth will play an increasing role in determining countries’ competitiveness and its citizens’ ability to lead secure, rewarding lives.”  Today’s fight over global oil supplies will pale in significance to the pending wars over water and food.

Please, before the next mall surge, take time with your family to view The Story of Stuff <  >.  Make it a holiday classic--along with a heart-felt conversation about giving back to the planet we share with 7 billion other inhabitants of our future. Let’s put sensibility and compassion back into the reason for the season.


Kay Strong, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, M.T., University of Houston, M.A., Ohio University; Associate Professor at Baldwin-Wallace College; Areas of expertise: international economics, contemporary social-economic issues, complexity and futures-based perspectives in economics. E-mail:

1 comment:

  1. Good day! Does the rate of updates of your portal depend on specific issues or you write blog articles when you have an inspiration or you create if you have time? Waiting forward to hear from you.


Baldwin Wallace University

My photo
This blog lives under the auspices of the Department of Economics whose mission has been to hold high the lantern beaming an "economic way of thinking" onto the world. Selfishness, rationality and equilibrium have been central to the teaching of an economic way of thinking rooted in the Renaissance. And, in this regard, the department has faithfully stayed the course. The intent of this blog, thinking out loud..., however, is to entertain exchanges which may challenge the centrality of economics as we teach it.