I consider this to be a sequel to my previous post, “Thoughts about wealth.”
Lately my parents have become obsessed with that “House Hunters” show on the HG channel. For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, the premise of the show is that a couple or a family or whoever enlists a realtor to help them find a new home. Over the course of the show, the realtor shows them three different houses and at the end of the show, the couple or the family picks one of the houses. Sounds completely innocent, right?
Except that, as with most things, materialism completely ruins this show. I gave it a couple of chances and watched it a few times, and I have to say that I balked at what I saw. Let me provide you with some examples why.
“This house doesn’t have a very good view of the lake.”
“This island isn’t private enough.”
“There’s nowhere to dock my boat on the river.”
“We needed 4 garages and this house only has 3.”
I think you get the general idea. Listen, folks, I understand that the purchasing a home is a personal thing, and that people want their homes to reflect their own sense of style and decorum. And that’s fine. I understand that a house has to fit certain needs and be unique.
But the people on this show take it to the nth degree. And what amazes me the most is that there are people with no housing at all all over the world who basically have to sleep in the elements all year while some waspy couple in Boston is turning down million dollar homes because the ceilings aren’t high enough or the counters aren’t real marble or the rock features around the swimming pool clash with the lawn furniture.
You might think that the four quotations I listed above are hyperbole, but they aren’t. They’re actual objections to houses shown on the show by real couples. And ultimately, what this all highlights for me is the extreme, decadent excess of Americans, an excess that exists simply because it can. There’s no responsibility, no thoughts to the long term implications of our purchases and actions.
America is only 5% of the world’s population, but we use 20% of the world’s energy. And we produce 40% of the world’s garbage. The picture below represents how many earth’s we would need in order for everyone to live by the same standards that Americans do.
4 earth’s, ladies and gentlemen.
I’m not arguing that everyone needs to live in identical, standard housing. What I’m arguing is that we need to lose this absurd mindset that a family of three needs a 6 bedroom, 7,000 sq foot home. Why is 5% of the world’s population entitled to 20% of its energy? Because of “American exceptionalism?” Or because we can take it by force? There’s something very wrong when 5% of the people on the planet create almost HALF of the garbage on it.
“House Hunters” is just a symptom of a larger problem, and that problem is one of excess. America is the home of the triple bacon this, the supersized that, and stretch Hummer limos. Our holidays are based around eating and buying too much. Our people are among the fattest in the world.
Is it possible, just possible, that Americans can still live quality lives while consuming less? That’s all I’m asking.