A Conservationist’s Manifesto, presents the consumerist culture from a self critique and self correction standpoint, encouraging the reader to look into their lives and understand how their actions affect the environment. The main argument in this book is that humans have to learn to live within the natural limitations of the Earth as a planet, rather than pushing these limits and consistently over stretching the available ecosystem. According to Sanders, the environmental destruction is clearly rooted in American consumerism, a culture that has unfortunately been globalized within the pretexts of modernization. This means that the only way to remedy this destruction is to look at collective reforms that can be embraced by each individual in the planet, for the benefit of the environment as a whole. Collective behavior can however only change if individual behavior changes, meaning that the path to environmental healing begins with the individual, and in this case, me. In this book, A Conservationist’s Manifesto, Sanders calls for ‘taking the future into account’ in a way that breeds conservatism and enhances the longevity of the planet, and this is something I would want to partake in as resident of this planet.
A Conservationist’s Manifesto, is primarily an environmentalist manifesto that call son the reader to examine the society and identify destructive trends that endanger the future of the planet. From the book, I learnt a few things about the destructive trends within the American society. First, Sanders describes the “unbridled appetite and gluttony’ that is the foundation of the American commercial culture”. In this quote, Sanders demonstrates how corporations lure customers to buy electronics that they do not even need in their homes. They buy them because they simply want them, and Americans want numerous things all the time. The problem here is that electronics are difficult to dispose of, and they tend to fill up landmines and private storage units as people keep getting new gadgets with every technological breakthrough in the market. In this case, it becomes clear that with the impulsive buying and insatiable appetite for new technology, the American society is degrading the planet faster than many other civilizations.
Sanders says, “The consumerist culture in the US is so bad that there are over 100 credit card companies, each with a significant number of clients”. In this quote, sanders means that credit cards can be expected to be limited for use by people who need money to cater to emergencies, as applied in developing countries. In the US and other parts of the West however, credit cards are a basic need for most people. They depend on these cards to fuel their compulsive desire for products that they may not need in the long term. The popularity of credit card shopping in the US is an indicator of how reckless the consumer trends within this country are. Moreover, unfortunately, the trend is not limited to the United States. It has spread out across the globe to some far flung parts of the world including Asia and South Africa among others. This means that the destructive trends that were previously only a concern in the west are going global, thus threatening the environment in a larger scale. The greatest lesson here is thus that people no longer buy products based on their need, but rather on their desire for new products. Moreover, corporations have learnt how to use this to their advantage, to push more products off their shelves and into the hands of the consumers. This means that in order to restore the environment, there is a need to change the shopping paradigm as embraced by the consumers not only in the US but also in the entire world. People need to stop shopping on a basis of want, and limit their acquisitions to need. This will significantly reduce the number of non-biodegradable products that are being thrown out every other day and thus contribute in the deterioration of the planet.
A culture of conservation is defined as a mindset in which people evaluate their actions on a basis of their implications in the future of the planet. In the book, Sanders argues that ‘the only way to heal the planet is to embrace the role of the human race in the natural ecosystem”. This quote means that acting rationally and conservatively rather than being destructive. Within personal contexts, destruction can be portrayed in different ways. First, I am one of those people who keep upgrading my mobile devices in order to experience the latest in technology. This means that I have a number of old devices that I no longer use. Initially, I thought that this was a good thing seeing as I am not disposing them off in a landfill. However, as years go by I may accumulate a dangerous number of gadgets that require disposing off. This is particularly true because most of the old technology is rendered useless once new technology is discovered.
In addition, while there are a number of e-recycling projects that could help with the conservative disposal of these gadgets, I find it rather hard to let go. This aligns with the fact that I am not a conservationist within Sanders’ standards. I buy electronic devices based on their buzz at the present without considering that the media will simply move on to the next new technology in a matter of months. My excessive enthusiasm for technology limits me from seeing the bigger picture and thinking about the future of the planet. The problem here is that I always find a good reason to buy a new gadget even when I do not need it. For example, my previous phone was working just fine when I bought a new one. I could have stayed with the old phone but I had seen and liked the new one and since I could afford it, I went for it. Before reading A Conservationist’s Manifesto, I thought this was normal and acceptable. After reading the book however, I am not too sure about it. I believe that this is something that I must work on if I am to be a responsible member of the society with respect to my conservationist practices.
First, this book changed my perspective on consumerism. Initially, I thought the American consumerist culture was simply an aftermath of the industrialization that saw an improvement in the economies of the West and thus more money in the pockets of the people. I however have to understand that buying products in the US is not necessarily linked with having money. People actually depend on credit cards to acquire products that they can ordinarily not afford. As such, the first thing that this book challenged me to do was to live within my means. People are able to buy things impulsively because they do not need to have the money to buy them. if they had to pay in cash, they may limit their purchases based on how much cash they had. This is why I will try to use cash as much as I can. Since I am always limited with respect to how much cash I can carry around, a cash only policy will help me to limit by buying compulsions so that I can think rationally before buying anything.
Secondly, I have learnt to think of the future whenever I make a purchase. Rather than standing in line to buy the iPhone 6 plus, I have been challenged to look at the possibility of an iPhone 7 in the near future. If I keep buying each new phone that promises me a better experience than the one I have, I will not be doing the planet any favors. I have thus been challenged to stick to my phone until the technology changes significantly enough to make my current phone a ‘dinosaur’. The last challenge that I got here is with respect to playing my part. I do not believe that everyone on the planet would be willing to compromise his or her experience with technology as I have decided to. However, by staying away from consumerism I will have played my part as an individual. The earth requires a collective transformation in order to be restored. Nevertheless, the collective effect can only be achieved if the individuals choose to act. This book challenged me not to be discouraged by the fact that I may be the only conservationist in my circle of friends. The idea here is to play my part and hope that it will count towards the restoration of the planet.
A Conservationist’s Manifesto is a great read considering that the author enables self critique within a large societal context. Reading this book allowed me to evaluate my role in the destruction of the environment. As an individual, I previously put all the blame on the corporations and industries but I also play a significant role in degrading the environment. With my numerous old electronic devices that are currently useless, and my continuous appetite for new technology, I am a great player in the destruction of the planet. This will however change as the book has challenged me to embrace a conservationist’s perspective and always look at the future before committing to purchase anything.