Humane Education is the Answer to the Consumerism/Population Paradox...And to So Much More!

At Bioneers I attended a talk by Annie Leonard (creator of The Story of Stuff) and Andy Revkin (New York Times reporter and author of the blog Dot Earth). Annie and Andy offered a presentation titled, “How Many? How Much?” about consumerism and population, and after their (excellent) talks, they opened for questions. There were many questioners who asked about the paradoxes we face in addressing consumerism and population. For example, with economies built around consumption, how can we sustain economic development and eliminate poverty if we diminish consumption? This is a real conundrum. If we all begin to live more simply, locally, and sustainably (either because we realize this is MOGO or because our economic crises demand this), we will buy much less and this will cause many to suffer tremendous economic hardships as their livelihoods disappear. With 6.7 billion people to feed, house and clothe, this is a paradox.

The U.S. government (along with others) has recently pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into our economy to prevent a depression. Some would argue that this fueling of our economy to keep production up and purchasing possible, is counter to our planetary need to reduce our consumption, our resource depletion, and our pollution. Paradoxes.

Annie and Andy didn’t have satisfying answers for these paradoxes because they are complex, and there aren’t simple solutions to them.

But there is an overarching solution, and that is humane education. I know, I know, I sound like a combination of a broken record and an unabashed idealist. But hear me out (again). While we must address critical issues such as global warming with immediate action, we cannot ignore the underlying problem: we do not yet teach for peace and sustainability, let alone for restoration, and if we neglect this root problem, we will forever be struggling to put out raging forest fires instead of preventing them from igniting.

I have no better answers for the paradoxes we face than Annie and Andy had, but I know that if we raise a generation with knowledge about the challenges we face and with tools and motivation to be creative problem-solvers, we will have answers, more and more of them at an ever quickening pace.

Capitalism 3.0 is a book that offers answers to restructuring our political/economic system. Cradle to Cradle is a book that offers answers to our architectural and chemical challenges. These are fantastic contributions that can (and will) create some of the changes we need, but just imagine how many answers will arise when a generation is offered real humane education. That’s the root solution to the paradoxes.

(For more information on how you can become a humane educator, visit

~ Zoe
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