Sustainable Luxury?!?

A week or so ago, i discovered the work of Jem Bendell via a TED talk he gave on the money myth. I largely agreed with his assessment, so i searched out his blog.

His recent post on sustainable luxury items got me thinking… I captured some of these thoughts in a lengthy comment, which basically took issue with Jem’s claim that sustainable luxury is not an oxymoron (as i am writing this post, the comment is still awaiting moderation probably because i put lots of links into it… Darn citation habit…).

I also question the notion of sustainability itself. We’ve done so much damage already, sustainability isn’t going to cut it. We need to regenerate the soil, the air, the water, our social connections, ourselves.

What i didn’t mention in the comment is another question that arose in me: If not that, then what? If we cannot consume ourselves out of the current crises, what can we do? I did allude to it: We need a different paradigm. We need to completely redefine luxury. Luxury is not an expensive belt (whether it’s upcycled or not). Luxury is sharing the juicy, tasty, fresh tomato from my backyard, which is regenerating the soil, with my neighbor. Or maybe it’s even not having a backyard and a neighbor because property is a thing of the past.

I don’t know what the answer is and that is exceedingly frustrating me. Like the well-trained philosopher i am, i can take apart an argument – and i don’t provide an alternative. And maybe i don’t have to. Maybe that is something we want to collectively come up with: If we no longer define luxury as excess, as something that some can have and others cannot, how could we define it? Or is luxury something that can help us illuminate privilege? I have the luxury of time to ponder these things – that’s just another way of saying that i am privileged because i don’t have to work for money right now (it’s Saturday…). Maybe we want to do away with the notion of luxury because it divides those who have it and those who don’t? After all, i don’t want clean air to be a luxury. I want clean air. Period. For everybody. In fact, that it is a luxury is troublesome – and again tied to privilege. Air for white folks tends to be cleaner than for lower income non-whites. Which leads back to the inherent unsustainability of luxury!

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