Changing and unpredictable economic trends due to globalization have forced many people across the world to question the real meaning of life. Constantly changing economic crises have overwhelming effects on various economic activities which have stimulated social, political and economic reforms aimed at alleviating economic forces of globalization that seem to spare none.
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Although governments regulate economic growth and development during economic crises, external forces of globalization cause overriding effects that leave citizens predisposed to hard economic conditions. Despite efforts to cushion citizens, intervention measures cannot sufficiently alleviate varying and unpredictable global effects of the economy.
Given changing and unpredictable economic trends that sweep across the world, Americans have found themselves in challenging economic conditions that need urgent transformations. Van Gelder argues that stalled economic recovery due to climate change, migration, and increasing oil prices are some of the economic conditions that threaten the future of Americans (Para. 4).
Since these economic trends are increasing and there is a low possibility for any hopeful changes to occur, Americans are now changing their lifestyles into simple and quality living to cushion themselves against unfavorable economic changes. In search of better life amidst turbulent economic recovery and uncertain future, people are turning to simple yet quality lifestyles to increase their economic stability and security.
Simple and Quality Lifestyles
Since people are searching for better lives, simple and quality lifestyles, seem to give a solution for navigating through the economic recovery process and coping with uncertain future threatened by possible economic crises. Americans have been living complex lifestyles based on materialism and thus perceive the quality of life from a materialistic perspective.
Although materialism formed the basis and foundation of the famous American dream, unstable economy and uncertain future due to possible economic crises, have proved that materialism is not a sustainable form of lifestyle. Americans had perceived materialism as a pathway to happiness and enhanced living standards, but recurring economic crises have proved otherwise and compelled them to look for alternative means of attaining the real meaning of life.
According to Henderson, Michigan Institute for Social Research carried out the study across the United States and revealed that Americans are shifting their lifestyles from materialistic existence to post-materialism lifestyles, which consider simplicity and quality of life (23). Simple lifestyles prevent one from becoming materialistic because it is a predisposition to negative effects of the economy.
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Moreover, simple lifestyles cushion individuals against overwhelming economic crises that threaten human existence. Search for a better life requires simple economic independence in a world clouded with unstable economies and uncertain future.
Current economies have forced people to be dependent by relying on imported goods and services, thus building a consumer culture that is very complex and susceptible to external factors of the economy. Since external factors of the economy are usually unfavorable, they expose people to the greatest effects of economic crises that are subject to global forces of economy, which a nation cannot regulate.
Given this, people with complex lifestyles that rely on consumer culture experience the greatest burden emanating from economic crises. She argues that, as means of economic recovery from devastating effects of economic depression, neither socialism nor capitalism will bring essential economic recovery, but the transformation of lifestyles at a personal level is critical (230).
Greater economic independence can occur if people produce their goods such as clothing, furniture, food and construct their own houses. Thus, simple and quality lifestyles demand economic independence and decline in reliance on simple commodities and services found in free markets.
Unfavorable climate changes and high fuel prices that have led to declining in food production and insufficiency of clean water has forced Americans to search for a better life by adopting new normal life, which is a form of the simple lifestyle that brings security resources closer to homes.
The new normal life involves a change in lifestyles locally, which include carrying farming activities, protecting local resources, and establishing small businesses. Given that food prices change relative to rainfall patterns and oil prices, the new normal life promotes simple farming of vegetable and fruits in lawns to enhance the simple lifestyle of production and diminish consumer lifestyle.
According to Van Gelder, the new normal life entails protection of local resources such as land, forests, water, and fisheries through sustainable utilization (Para.10). Sustainable use of natural resources is an integral part of economic growth and development.
Moreover, new normal life promotes the establishment of local businesses such as the development of local banks and business enterprises for local goods and services hence improving the capacity of local economies and the creation of employment opportunities.
From a personal perspective and experiences, Americans can increase economic stability and security by accepting to live simple and quality lifestyles. The simple and quality lifestyles encourage economical utilization of resources and prevent over-dependence on materialism that leads to unnecessary wastage of resources.
Culture of materialism and consumerism has left many people vulnerable to constant economic crises that seem to perpetuate due to complex forces of globalization. Problems of energy, climate, food, water, and employment have taken international dimension yet local interventions are capable of reversing trends and thus cushion people from overwhelming influences of economic depression.
If citizens live simple and quality lifestyles that encourage the production of goods and services, and become economically independent in that they can produce what they need in their localities, they can have hope of certain future and better lives.
Elkin argues that due to recurrent economic crises that the United States has experienced over time, it is predictable that by 2015, over 120 million of the population will be living simple lifestyles as a way of coping with adverse economic trends (5). Such prediction is quite visible because currently, many people are gradually changing to earlier forms of lifestyles that are healthful and enriching.
Nevertheless, despite the achievability of simple and quality lifestyles as a pathway to economic recovery and development, critics argue that simple lifestyles are not an effective way of addressing economic crises. Critics assert that simple lifestyles are unconventional and unresponsive to the world’s dynamics of the economy, and therefore immeasurable.
They further argue that governments can spend a lot of resources in implementing local interventions that promote simple lifestyles but will not bear a significant impact on the international scale. According to Elkin, adoption of simple lifestyles is like going back to ancient forms of existence that cannot fit or go well with current trends of living (8). Therefore, simple living lifestyles cannot help Americans cope with persistent economic depressions.
Unfavorable economic trends that cause continuous effect across the world have predisposed many people too hard economic conditions and forced them to change their lifestyles. During the late 20th century when the United States’ economy grew well, Americans developed a culture of materialism that defined the real meaning of quality life and formed the basis of happiness.
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Unfortunately, after a series of economic depressions, it dawned on Americans that the culture of materialism is not sustainable, and currently, they are changing to simple lifestyles to cushion themselves from the effects of globalization. New normal life is an example of simple lifestyles that encourage people to localize their economies by preserving local resources, establishing businesses, and carrying out garden farming.
However, critics assert that simple lifestyles are unconventional and regressive relative to world’s dynamics of the economy. Although simple and quality lifestyles that people are changing to very effective in alleviating economic crisis at local levels, they have a critical challenge in keeping abreast with conventional dynamics of the economy.
Elkin, Bruce. “Simple Living: Trend or Tide?” The Trends Research Institute of Rhineback, 2005: 1-17.
Henderson, Carter. “Living the Simple Life.” Human Resource Management 16.3 (2006): 23-29.
Shi, David. The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture. New York: University of Georgia Press, 2007.
Van Gelder, Sarah. “Pioneers of the New Normal.” YES! Magazine 14 Sept. 2010. Web. 28 June 2011. <http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/sarah-van-gelder/pioneers-of-the-new-normal/>