The sustainable self: A gateway to a greener future
LE3 .A278 2013
Bachelor of Arts
The purpose of this study is to highlight the ability of individual efforts to alter consumption practices in light of a changing climate. In this thesis I argue that in order to realize a sustainable future, one which values the relationships between the environment and society, a movement must first occur within the individual that balances the consumption processes of modern life in a more environmentally-conscious manner. First, the history of consumption is discussed as a means of showing how capitalism has provided the conditions for consumer culture and over-consumption. Then, work by Klaus Eder (1996) and Karl Marx (1974) are used to portray the social construction of nature and commodity fetishism, respectively, which explains the idea and motivation for capitalist society’s commodification of nature. The motivation for altering individual consumption practices is explained through a discussion of Ulrich Beck’s (1992; 1999) work on risk society and society’s need to collectively manage the risks of a changing climate. The primary research in this study uses a mixed-method approach to portray my consumption practices using self-reflexive autoethnographic vignettes on my practices of water, electricity, and food consumption. Each vignette is followed by a quantitative analysis of the practice being discussed, followed again by my attempts to lessen the impact of each practice. The result of this research shows that individual efforts to affect sustainable consumer practices, though minimal in my experience, are in fact achievable. However, it is important to note that individual consumer practices alone will not mitigate the impacts of climate change; therefore, a further discussion of alternative models to consumer society is needed.
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