Consuming is part of life. Humans need to consume food and oxygen in order to go on having a body. But after reading Jennifer Price’s essay “Looking for Nature at The Mall,” I was focused on a different kind of consumption. I remember stores like The Nature Company profiled in the essay. We had a Natural Wonders store in our mall, and it was one of my favorite places to go as a child. I wanted almost everything in the store: animal t-shirts, animal toys, rain sticks (oh to have a rain stick of my very own!), everything appealed to me. I still love animals, conservation, music, quality handmade items, and learning about different cultures and traditions. But I have stopped looking for them at the mall. Yes I buy clothes made by underpaid workers in Malaysia, but having them stamp a Navajo or “African” print on those clothes seems to be going too far. Likewise, I also don’t want authentic southwestern pottery if I’ve never been there. I don’t wear feathers or shells that I haven’t earned. Do I want to conserve habitat for wild animals? Yes. Will I accomplish this goal by carrying around a canvas bag with a bird painted on it? No. There are certain things you just can’t buy and I count nature and culture among them.
I understand the appeal of the idea that you can buy everything you want. But I don’t think it’s true. it seems like consuming doesn’t lead to satisfaction, it leads to more consuming. I don’t like to operate on assumptions, so I looked up some research on the topic. Turns out shopping and buying things makes people more anxious and depressed, not more satisfied and happy. I also found another interesting study on happiness. Maybe we should all think more about how we spend our time on Earth and less about how we spend our money.