As we head into the Christmas season, I urge cutting back on feeding the corporations! They have taken over our country and are now working on globalization. The goal of corporations is to make money.
Corporations are run by one individual: the chief executive officer (CEO). This individual is accountable to a group called the board of directors (BOD) who are theoretically elected by shareholders. In the actual functioning of a corporation, the shareholders do not care what is going on as long as the checks keep coming in. The CEO picks a rubber-stamp BOD, thus passing control from the shareholders to management.
What should be the pay of the CEO of a corporation? In 1940, it was 40 times what an average worker earned. Today, it is more than 530 times what an average worker earns. CEOs are excessively rich in money, thus political power.
My cynical conclusion is that we now have the best government money can buy. Corporate CEOs have one goal: to make money, with which they contribute substantially to political candidates who, when elected, turn around, giving tax breaks and lucrative contracts. American corporations are doing very well with the war in Iraq (e.g. Halliburton), while our country goes deeper and deeper in debt (more than $400 billion a year). The first step in taking our government back for its citizens might be making it illegal for corporations to donate to (buy) elections.
As we head into the Christmas season, I urge consuming less, spending less, and offering more of yourselves to your loved ones. Make your own Christmas cards, wrap gifts in funny papers, offer a hike to Point Sal (pick me up on your way) as a gift. Simplify your life and enrich the lives of loved ones. Make this the "Buy Nothing Season."
I enjoy our Xmas "White Elephant" gift sharing. That is where you find something in your storage area that you never use (but it's too good to toss out), wrap it, put it with other "treasures," draw numbers, and select. If someone else likes your "gift," you have a new choice. I remember an almost-new pair of hiking boots that my daughter had outgrown. A hosteller from Australia got them, they fit perfect, and she was so thrilled: "This is exactly what I wanted and needed."
We are the most successful people the world has ever known. It's a great time to be riding this wave. Our enormously productive economy affords us luxuries beyond the wildest dreams of previous generations and far beyond the reach of most of the almost 7 billion Homo sapiens inhabiting (and modifying) this tiny planet, a planet on which more than one-third don't have electricity, many are starving, 98 percent are without computers, and habitat-degradation is everywhere. It's an exciting, fun time for most of us in America. I call it the final glow of the "Golden Age of Man."
Many today long for a simpler society, a simpler life, a lifestyle more in tune with the natural world, a sustainable way of life. Happiness is not accumulating "stuff." Americans comprise only five percent of the world's people, yet we consume more than 35 percent of the world's resources. People in Third World countries watch TV and aspire to our consumerism. We are the lucky ones at least for a little while longer.
Voluntary Simplicity (VS) is a movement reducing consumption, thus creating less debt, using fewer resources, recycling more, and living with the natural world. Many in the VS movement take delight in exercising imagination and creativity in consuming less and recycling more.
On Thanksgiving Day, I picked up the morning paper. It was more than 90 percent advertising. How many times a day are we told to buy stuff?
Defining simplicity is a very individual matter that covers a wide potential range. Some suggestions on things you might do:
1. AVOID YOUR CAR: Walk, ride your bike, carpool, take the bus but do not drive. I ride my bicycle 2,000 miles each year rather than driving my polluter. Walk on the beach rather than driving, as at Oceano, and listen to the waves.
2. BUY LESS: Why do we get more than 1,000 messages a day to buy more? The average credit card debt is more than $10,000. Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need the item.
3. LAWN: Grow native bushes and increase biodiversity. Birds and butterflies love it. We use more than 202 million pounds of pesticides a year for lawns in the United States plus all that polluting lawn-machinery.
4. TV: Corporations spend more than $7 billion each year telling us to consume. Watch "Democracy Now" by Amy Goodman, as there are no commercials. It is my main source of the news. Get outside, visit the park, go on one of my Sunday hikes/bikes/kayaks.
5. BIRTH RATE: Sixty percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended (accidents). I urge vasectomies for males, emergency contraception for gals, and condom vending machines in all restrooms.
6. THE SUN: It shines on the Central Coast. Solar panels, which pre-heat water, should be on all roofs. Photo-voltaics are expensive, but clotheslines aren't. Our government will refund some of the cost of photo-voltaics. With them on my roof, my electrical bill is about $10 a month.
7. RECYCLE: It should be a way of life for everyone. I produce about a barrel of non-recyclable trash a month and you?
8. OAKS: I plant acorns from this native tree everywhere. It belongs here. Eucalyptus don't.
9. WATER: Connect your shower, laundry, and sink as I have done so that wastewater flows to plants outside. Plants, and thus birds, love it.
10. HOME GROWN: I have a garden and raise pigs for meat, goats for milk, and hens for eggs. Everything tastes better. Kids enjoy visiting my place. I have real kids for sale cheap.
11. READ: Bob Banner publishes HopeDance, which is a free local publication dedicated to voluntary simplicity the hope for a future. Read, then recycle it.
Bill Denneen is an eco-hooligan who lives in Nipomo.