I’ve always liked this slogan from the American Green movement. It came strongly to mind when I read a piece by Martin John Brown about the American love-affair with self-storage, published on the ever-excellent Alternet site.
Brown examines how the self-storage business has become very big, very fast; he looks at how people take units for a short period and never quite manage to get round to getting their stuff out – it just sits there, not thrown away and not used, with the payment going out. And it’s not necessarily about space – many of the people concerned are middle-class people with big homes and plenty of storage space of their own.
It’s not, as the piece points out, an American phenomenon; all over the developed world, people have stuff they don’t really want but can’t bear to part with. Brown argues that the items in storage have become repositories of people’s dreams; I’d be tempted to argue that it’s not quite that. I think it’s about a fetishisation of things; I possess, therefore I am. The mass advertising media constantly push acquisition, but there’s nothing about letting go.
At is seems to me that, at the root of this parable, there is an important lesson for green politicians. We can be as rational as we like, argue the case about global warming and the social damage caused by greed and the worship of the market; but we’re not really in a terribly rational place, and telling people things are for their own good is never going to be popular. Moving the discourse on is really very difficult.