In discussions of environmental conditions or problems, the concept of consumption appears, typically, in two ways. First, consumption is said to be the problem. We are hurting the environment because we consume too much or we consume the wrong kind of things. Second, changing consumption is said to be an important part of the solution. If we wish to have a more sustainable relationship with our planet, we must consume less or, at least, smarter and better.

Is consumption the problem? Environmentalist rhetoric asserts that it is. We hear statements such as, “The United States has 4.5 percent of the world’s population but consumes about 25 percent of the world’s resources” and, “If everyone on Earth lived like Americans, that would require four Earths’ worth of natural resources.”

Is changing consumption (at least part of) the solution? Important strains of environmentalist rhetoric say it is. Concerned citizens are …

This essay may be found on page 44 of the printed volume.

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