Born to Shop?
1st January, 2001
Ever since the 1970s we have lived with the growing awareness that our ecosystem is fragile and the perpetual exploitation of our natural resources impossible. By the late 1980s, even The Sun newspaper had its own green correspondent. Everything we buy, use and throw away has an impact somewhere on the ecological continuum, and nowadays the most bullish Western consumers’ consciences are regularly punctured by shards of eco-worry. We also increasingly realise that working ever harder for more possessions, more options, more stuff, doesn’t tend to make us more content.
Instead it can cause anxiety, stress and depression. Lifestyle pundits blame ‘society’ or the Government. Some say it’s a sickness. But still our culture strives to produce and consume more. The question is ‘why?’
Breakthroughs in brain-scanning science and evolutionary psychology suggest the real culprit is us – or rather the way we play fast and loose with our primitive, instinctive brains. Our basic evolutionary wiring got us down from the trees and across the world, through Ice Ages, plagues, famines and disasters, right into our age of bounty. This unprecedented success was built upon a voracious strategy of ‘get more of everything, whenever possible’.
Now, however, that strategy is set to dump us on the cosmic ash-heap. In the rich world we have gone from millennia of scarcity to unprecedented abundance. Materially, we have everything we need to be content. Except for a stop-button. An ‘enough’ button.
According to evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, of Rutgers University, New Jersey, US: ‘We’ve evolved to be maximising machines. There isn’t necessarily a mechanism in us that says “relax”.’...
To view the rest of this article - you must be a paying subscriber and Login
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.