I’m working on a fictional story that is partially a fairy tale and partially a dystopian sci-fi story. I’m not sure which way it will go as I continue working on it, but the premise is this:
People stop making things. Things start accumulating faster than ever. The earth gets buried alive in garbage.
I don’t think this idea is unique or new. In fact, anti-materialism has been a topic of interest for nonfiction authors for the past several years. It may be the theme of our century. A few books on the topic that have crossed my radar are:
Note to self: These books were all written by men. Have any women written about this topic? Of course they must have. Homework assignment: Find books on this topic written by women. In what ways do they differ from the examples above? My guess is that women will be talking more about making things.
Wallman, in particular, believes that experiences will replace objects as the things we want to collect in our lives. This idea isn’t new either. I’ve read articles that say this in travel magazines several times over the past couple of years. (Maybe they were written by Wallman and I didn’t notice.)
I don’t think this is the answer. I think to replace our malaise, we need to come back to the activity of making things, appreciating the quality of things that are made by hand, and realizing that to have one high quality object is much better than to have fifty cheap copies. I think making things is the cure for materialism because it infuses things with meaning and purpose, making each individually hand-crafted item valuable and irreplaceable.
Yes, we can live and look good with a small closet filled with hand-made clothes that don’t fall apart after ten washings.
Yes, we can be kept warm for our whole lives by the same blankets that our mothers or grandmothers made when we were children, and these blankets warm our hearts as well as our bones.
Yes, we can work less, make less money, and enjoy our lives more when we are not spending every moment figuring out how we will make enough money to spend on mass produced crap.
No, we don’t need new clothes and shoes and phones every season.
No, we don’t need to be slaves to the whims of fashion and technological innovation.
No, we don’t need to be so busy that we are never at peace or present with ourselves and our families and never have the time to understand the process of making something from scratch, whether it is a pair of socks, a loaf of bread, or a table.
I’m still thinking about all of this, and my story is not quite ready to be born, but I know it’s one that will eventually be filling the pages of my notebooks and probably, eventually, the pages of Stories In Stitches as well. It’s more about making what I call “a living and a life that I love” than it is about acquiring wealth and status symbols or trying to generate the (impossible) eternal financial growth that corporations consider the definition of success.
Can making things save the planet? Can the answer be so simple? I think so.