Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Materialism....Is it stealing from the Earth?

It's interesting (maybe a Godcidence) that two of my three Lenten reflections today talked about materialism.  The first reflection made the connection between the commandment (of the ten commandments) "Thou shall not steal" and how materialism can steal from the earth and future generations.

As I quietly sit this morning and ponder this, I realize that yes, materialism does in fact steal from the earth.  As our society strives to acquire more inspiring wall hangings and plaques, more furniture, bigger houses, more clothing, more make-up, more cars, bigger cars, etc., the resources we are using and abusing to keep these "things" is depleting our earth.  I really like the idea of Mother Earth and how we are to respect her, love her and take care of her just like we do (or should do) our own mothers.  I think of all the wood, stains, paints and chemicals that are used to manufacture the "trinkets" we hang on our walls or the decorative furniture that's not really used but is there for "show" so that our homes can look like something from the many magazines that we see.  Everything we own and do has an impact on Mother Earth.  We have bigger homes that need more heating and use more water for cleaning.  Many people use more chemicals to clean the bigger homes and bigger cars.  Our society is so affluent that we don't even think about how we impact the earth.  So are we stealing from Mother Earth?  I think so!  Are we depleting her resources?  I think so!  I think of all the stone tiles that are used on the floors, walls, outdoor entrances of these big homes. This also means we are stealing from the next generations as well.

"Thou shall not steal".  Hmmmm....I always thought I didn't steal.  I don't go into stores, conceal items in my clothing or purse and walk out.  I don't steal.  I don't take things that belong to other people.  I don't steal.  But....do I own "trinkets" and inspiring sayings that hang on my wall?  Yes I do!  Are these made of wood?  Yes.  And there is paint and colour stains on them.  Which means that I have thoughtlessly and carelessly contributed to "stealing" from Mother Earth as the chemicals that have been used in the production process most likely have made an impact on Her.  How can it not have?  I have bought these items at a "reasonable" price thinking that I was being frugal and responsible.  Maybe not so much.  Maybe I need to rethink what I do?

I always thought that I didn't contribute to the abuse of Mother Earth because I don't buy makeup, perfume and lots of body lotions.  The reason for this is really that I am allergic to all these beauty products.  But regardless of the why, I kind of felt a little superior in that I didn't contribute to supporting that industry which uses a lot of chemicals which then get washed back into the water system of Mother Earth.  I'm also sensitive to cleaning chemicals so I use vinegar and baking soda but I do resort to using mild cleaning products for disinfecting.  These do have chemicals. So I am contributing to the destruction of Mother Earth.  The second reflection this morning from my "Lamentations for Lent" mentioned "What is spent on cosmetics annually in North America would supply all the water needs of Africa."  So although I don't use cosmetics, my daughter does.  I buy some of these things for her.  So I am contributing to "stealing" from Mother Earth and from future generations.

I don't think of myself as a materialistic person.  I try to reuse items or at least recycle them.  I wear my clothing until they are so thin and ragged that they then go into the "rag bag" to be used as cleaning rags or squares to make a quilt (I still have to learn how to sew and make a quilt).  I take clothing that my family has outgrown to a local second-hand store which sells items to raise money to help residents in the neighbourhood who have fallen on hard times.  I feel good and think that I am not contributing to the garbage dump.  And yes I am doing something good.  But....when I buy items of cheaper quality which are made in third world countries by underpaid workers in unsafe manufacturing plants, I am stealing from the workers and I am also stealing from Mother Earth.  This is because the cheaper items end up breaking and what can't be recycled ends up in the garbage and then I buy another to replace it.  Then it is a cycle which includes some waste.

I once tried to make sure that I bought items made only in Canada.  I remember I needed running shoes as mine had been worn down and there were holes in the soles.  I tried looking for good quality running shoes made in Canada.  I spent gas and emitted exhaust fumes as I drove all over the city looking at the various shoe stores.  I could not find one pair of running shoes made in Canada.  So I ended up attributing to the greenhouse gases with the exhaust from my van.  I ended up wasting fuel and natural resources.  I ended up spending money supporting a big global company that had the shoes made for cheap prices in a third world country.  I stole from the workers.  I stole from Mother Earth.  Thank goodness I don't have lots and lots of shoes.  Thank goodness I don't have lots and lots of clothing.  And then I think of all the people that have big homes stuffed with furniture, with big walk-in closets stuffed full of clothing and shoes and "stuff".  I think of our society with multiple big cars in the driveways.  This is when I feel sad.

I also feel sad because our teenagers "need" all these things that society pressures them to have.  I remember when we lived in a rural setting while our children were preschoolers.  Every year at this time, we used to walk up our road with the kids' wagon, rubber gloves for all of us and garbage bags.  We used to collect all the garbage that people would throw out of their cars as they drove down our country road.  We did this in an effort to do our part in keeping the environment clean.  We did this as a family activity to teach our children to respect Mother Earth.  I feel despair as I see my children fall for society's pressure for "having more".  Materialism is alive and well unfortunately in our society and amongst our teenagers.  Just think if we reduced what we spent on "trinkets" and cosmetics (which includes perfumes, sprays, body lotions, etc.), how much money could be used to help repair Mother Earth.  These items wouldn't be going into our sewers and ultimately back into the earth's water table.

This is just a thought-provoking reflection this morning.  I guess the next step is to act upon some of these ponderous thoughts.  Will I?


  1. This is a fantastic post, Cathy. So many things to think about. I believe we're all guilty in one way or another, but we should try to minimize the damage we do as much as possible. I have the tiniest wardrobe of anyone I know since I hate shopping for clothes, but even so, that wardrobe has items in it that are most definitely made in third world countries. So, I'm contributing in a negative way. If I look at my life through a microscope, I can find things that I do right, and things that I do wrong. I think many of us are in that position.

    1. You're right Martha. But I also think that unless we sew ourselves, we don't have anywhere to buy Canadian made clothing/shoes. I find this frustrating. And I think that the reason there's very little Canadian made clothing is that the companies have moved their operations to countries where they can manufacture clothes cheaper (ie. cheaper wages, cheaper materials). I blame our government for this by endorsing and promoting Free Trade agreements. I also know that I need to look at my own purchases a little more closely. I, like you, have a small wardrobe. But I think I could buy my food locally or grow my own. I try to buy Ontario and Canadian food in the grocery stores as well as at the markets. It's a start. If we all did our little bit, it might make a difference. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment. I always appreciate your input.