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  • Dan Connors

More & more- is our addiction to more helping or hurting?

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here

“All species will go extinct eventually, even our own: it is one of nature's few imperatives. As of today, however, that train has not quite left the station. We still have some control over our demise-namely, how long it will take and how much our children and grandchildren will suffer. If we want to take action, we should get started while it still matters what we do.”

Are we looking at climate change all wrong? Is our obsession with making more money, acquiring more things, getting more attention, and always looking to expand, expand and expand some more doing us any good in the long run? Psychologists have a term called the Hedonic Treadmill that says no matter how much we add to our lives, the rush we get from more and more stuff eventually fades away, and we are stuck at the same level of happiness or misery no matter how much we try. Materialism has the potential to make us less desperate, but it can't make us happier.

This thought is sacrilege to modern capitalism, which relies on the constant desire for more to run its energetic treadmill of money and stuff. In her popular book, The Story Of More, author Hope Jahren looks specifically at how this obsession has put us in a bind of rising temperatures and climate change. Ms. Jahren is a Paleobiologist and writer who has written and taught about the effects of climate change.

The Story of More takes a different tack on how to combat climate change. Instead of running out and building millions of electric cars, the author questions whether we need so many cars in the first place. Perhaps mass transit is more the way to go, or building smarter neighborhoods that require fewer and closer trips to do business. Instead of covering the land with enormous solar energy panels, perhaps we need to live simpler and less dependent on energy consumption. Corporations, always on the lookout for more profits for their shareholders, are built to give us more of everything, even if we don't need it. But who is there out there to encourage us to consume less?

Much of this book is a familiar retelling of how wasteful society has become in an age of plentiful energy and materials. The wealthier countries are the most wasteful, of course, and if they could just get a handle on that their carbon footprints would shrink. We waste tons of food every year that is just thrown away and never eaten. It's built into the model. Clothing has morphed into fast fashion, where outfits are tossed out regularly after they've only been worn a few times.

To satisfy the constant need for more, we are confining fish, chickens, cows, and other edible animals into inhumane enclosures and breeding them for foods that are unhealthy and wasteful. This book connects our huge appetite for consumption with the phenomenon of climate change. The author does a depressing recap of some of the current symptoms, like hotter days, melting ice, rising oceans, disappearing species, and more.

In the decades ahead, we can expect plenty of debates about what to do as the planet continues to warm up. Those with the money and power to decide things will certainly drag things out and try to delay things with promises of new technologies, enticing all of us to buy what they're selling. There will be fear tactics to try to scare and intimidate people that fossil fuels are essential to our economies. This book points to an alternative that we should just try to live simpler lives. It's a nice thought, but no one has worked out how that could work in a world with 8 billion people, most of whom want a wasteful, Western lifestyle.

“Convincing people to examine their energy use is like trying to get them to quit smoking or eat more healthfully: they already know that they should do it, but there is a billion-dollar industry working round-the-clock, inventing new ways to make sure they don't.”

Slow down. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Examine your values at a deeper level and detach from the hedonic treadmill. This is what the Story of More wants us to consider. Ms. Jahren paints a dark picture of the future, but at heart she is optimistic about people making a difference and making better choices in the long run. Eventually the hedonic treadmill could break down, and it's her hope (and mine) that humanity will value survival, kindness, and peace above the need for more stuff.

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Thomas Cairns
Thomas Cairns
Aug 01, 2023

The story of more - tactful yet indirect. We need to take responsibility but do not understand our nature yet🌺

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