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The Student News Site of Tualatin High School

The Wolf

The Student News Site of Tualatin High School

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Alex Ehrhart
Alex Ehrhart
News Editor

Sustainability confronts American materialism

The American spirit seems preoccupied with an unending cultural drive for expansion, stimulation and acquisition. In every realm of society and corner of our individual minds, America is determined to attain the furthest reaches of success, utility and power; our economic prosperity is measured in the total amount of things produced and the net worth of our richest Americans, while our nation’s best characteristic seems to be that of our military strength and global hegemony. Even as individuals, we’re aligned towards constant noise and productivity, infinite revolving doors of distraction and work.
In every way, the fabric of our nation, from White House foreign policy goals to individual lifestyles, is geared towards gaining, conquering and living with abundance in all its forms. Not only seen in our aforementioned attitudes, but also observable in our highest skyscrapers, $800 billion dollar annual military budget and abundance of needless things, America is fully immersed in materialism as pervasive and evergrowing as it is difficult to change.
This materialism, so large it extends past a valuing of individual possessions and into broad societal ones, is the defining characteristic of the U.S., as well as the downstream inevitable value of a country that remains on top of the rest of the world through superior industrial and military power.
However, it’s also a reflection of a few of our shortcomings, a clear byproduct of America’s hyperfocus on the wrong ideals that, while having made us the most materially successful, has also allowed us to lag behind in the immaterial but more important pursuits of modern day happiness, and even our continued sustainable existence.
Our materialism, which defines progress in observable and clearly measured ways, increasingly confronts a simultaneous and evergrowing need for sustainability. Now more than ever, it appears that American motives and priorities can’t be reconciled with this competing need, as ecological disaster looms, resource depletion continues and many Americans feel unfulfilled.
Observable both in this issue’s focus and in the broader country and world’s problems, materialism seems to be the root of our inability to combat climate change, spiraling pollution, sustained and positive growth and broad human unhappiness.
You will often hear the lie that green energy is a perfect economic alternative – a lucrative and highly-viable switch that, while dramatically re-organizing our economy, will somehow continue to give us the unending economic growth we expect. This is an example of the competing needs of our future.
Our financial sector – and by extension, people’s retirement, pensions and livelihoods – are built on this expectation. However, to combat climate change and save our future, we need to dispel these myths and commit to the hard truth that nothing will be as lucrative and efficient as sticking to the status quo of fossil fuels that are further destroying our planet.
Established industrial production and infrastructure cannot be switched overnight, nor over the course of 10 years, as decades of capital have been arranged and invested in ways that presuppose the continuation of fossil fuels as a main energy source. If we are to dramatically react to the coming—and present—climate catastrophe, massively overturning our country’s manufacturing and commercial infrastructure, we can’t hold the previous objectives attached to American materialism, or try to compromise the two in some delusion that we can continue growth intertwined with unsustainable production.
This is what requires a recentering of motives – a re-evaluation of what has made us materially successful, in a time when we should be environmentally and immaterially concerned. The conflicting facts of needing a world that quickly transitions away from current systems of production and having a world already dependent on that production make for an ultimate dilemma, where one or the other needs to go. We either sacrifice our prevailing norms and existing setup, or we sacrifice a further fleeting hope for a sustained green future.
This need for a shifted attitude and treatment of American materialism extends far past the issue of climate change and into the territory of individual happiness, global peace and continued progress in a multitude of ways. In each issue, confronting and changing what’s wrong requires us to fix the underlying enemy: things and our attitudes toward them. A recognition of this crucial pillar of fact is the first step in progress towards a better future.

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About the Contributor
Liam Frith
Liam Frith, Entertainment Editor
Hi, my name is Liam and I'm a junior. This is my first year on staff. I joined The Wolf because I enjoy writing and would love to contribute to our school paper. In my free time I like to skateboard, read, and listen to music.

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