Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Affluence

Affluent describes me. I am affluent. My family is affluent. My children live in an affluent household. We will make less than $30,000 this year. To most people, this would not be considered affluent. We are frugal, we live simply, and this is more than enough for us. I consider us affluent because we have so many luxuries, and opportunites, that many others do not have. I sit at one of 2 computers. I drive one of 2 cars. My children all have their own beds to sleep in. We can turn on the water and electricity whenever we want. So many, many people do not live like this.


But I think affluence comes with responsibility. We as Americans have bought into the notion of self sufficiency to the point that we have neglected community. Many of us don't even know our neighbor's names. We have traded our front porches for backyard pools, and lawns that require riding lawn mowers! This anonymity among people of our own communities gives us an artificial distance, and helped insulate us from worrying about anybody's sufferings other than our own.
I just wrote about the plight in Appalachia, and I think it serves to illustrate my point in this case as well. The central Appalachian counties are amont the poorest in the nation, despite being promised fortune and good jobs from the coal companies. We affluent people use the coal to power our homes that has been raped from their land. Homes near mountaintop removal sites often decrease by as much as 90%. These homes and land are often the only assets these folks have, and have been part of their heritage for generations. Our actions as affluent consumers effect the poorest communities the most. We have a duty to stand up for the poorest of our citizens whose voices are not making out of the mountains. We are implicated in their plight when we flip on our lights. We must demand action, demand alternatives, and rally to the cause of those who cannot.




One of the biggest reasons I decided to go green was not for myself, but for the implications my actions had on those with less power than I. Fisherman who lose their livelihoods because of dead zones in our oceans. Children who suffer from allergies and asthma at unprecedented rates due to toxic chemicals in our homes. People starving in third world countries because of the increasing food prices. Families affected by the dirty practices of coal companies. I don't know about you, but I can't make a decision without thinking about these things first. I am not alone in this world, and my decisions are the only thing I can control. It's a powerful thing to be able to make a choice that collectively can force change.

4 comments:

Maggie Hess said...

Can I link your blog to mine? Maggie

Lindsay said...

You preach it mama- Lindsay

Donna said...

I'm "going green" for largely the same reasons as you are. I don't think it's fair to live at the expense of others -- we have enough money to be selfish, but we also have enough money to have the responsibility not to be selfish. Thanks for a great post.

Green Bean said...

Man, I thought I'd left a comment earlier. Wonderful post. We cannot live at the expense of others - other people, other species, other places.