Making, Selling, and Buying Stuff

IMG_7323This morning when I got up, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I decided not to wait until the afternoon to take my walk in the woods. Therefore, I ate breakfast, read a few things online, and headed outside midmorning. But by then it was nearly too late. The sky had become cloudy, and the woods were almost too dark for pictures.

An important lesson for this beginning photographer: Go when the light is good. You never know when it will change. Luckily, there were glimmers of sunshine, and I was able to get a couple of nice shots, which I have included in this post.

However, a walk in the woods is never wasted. The cool, quiet of the winter woods always absorbs me while at the same time allowing me to think about things. What I thought about today was a post I read yesterday on Ben Hewett’s blog, where he wrote about the contradictions of not wanting to be part of a consumer society while at the same time wanting to make and sell things.

It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure, and like Ben I struggle with this contradiction. On the one hand, those of us who live in rich countries consume and shop too much. We are depleting natural resources at an alarming rate, and the obvious answer is to stop the excessive shopping.

On the other hand, Ben’s wife makes lovely birch-bark ornaments, and his sons make nifty wooden spoons. Ben writes books and depends upon the sales for his livelihood.  In the interest of not shopping too much, should we not buy their ornaments, spoons, and books?

Closer to home…I have two friends that make jewelry, and I have supported them by buying their earrings. One pair I gave to a friend for her birthday; the other I kept for myself, even though I have a chest full of earrings. To support my friends was good, but did I need another pair of earrings? I certainly did not.

Someday, I hope to  have my own books published, which will use Earth’s resources. Do I want people to buy them? You bet I do.  Clif and I are also planning to make clocks and calendars from photos we take, and, yes, we would like to sell those as well.

Clif and I discussed this last night, but we didn’t come up with any concrete guidelines. We live in a money economy, and we all must find ways to support ourselves. The three chief ways of doing this are growing and selling things; making and selling things; and providing services that people are willing to pay for. The first two involve Earth’s resources, and the last one depends on human resources.

I suppose the most Earth-friendly approach would be to focus on providing services, but to borrow from Jane in Pride and Prejudice, we are not all alike. Many of us like to create things, and our talents don’t necessarily mesh with providing services. Besides, if we all suddenly stampeded  in the direction of providing services, then there would be a glut, and no one would prosper.

Can shopping be sustainable? Can we create and buy without depleting resources? There are a lot of us on this planet, and we might have gone beyond the point where we can do this.

Nevertheless, I wish for Ben and his family to prosper through their endeavors.  Ditto for my friends who make jewelry. And, of course, for Clif and me and our projects.

And maybe learn to create with as many recycled materials as we can?