The consumerism in this country is a big mess of a problem stemming in part from the refined art of creating demand for things we really don't need (ie. marketers doing their jobs too well). As a second generation Chinese, I still carry with me values of turning off the light when one leaves a room, never throwing away food unless absolutely necessary, shopping at thrift stores, using bath water to feed the garden and plants, conserving gas, owning small cars, and so forth, and it's not an issue of necessity but rather choice. I remember while growing up in middle America, how embarrassed I was in my family's non-materialism and conservative habits. I was raised with these habits before eco-consciousness became a buzzword. But the culture has changed in China and for the rapidly growing wealthy class, it's about the bigger cars, bigger houses, latest gadgets, material-focused lifestyle.
If you've been to Beijing, Shanghai, Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, it's hard to ignore the thick layer of pollution blanketing the cities juxtaposed with glitzy shopping centers on every block. Air quality wise, Los Angeles on its worst day was never as bad as Beijing on its best. So we have a long way to go in reversing the consumerist trends in large pockets of the earth. Along the way, however, I find myself admiring the Coach bag through a window or plunking down money on yet another long coat, but in a different color. I don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with this from the movie starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep:
"You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo's."
"This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff."
Actually, I've never tried on Jimmy Choo's and it's highly unlikely I'll ever work for the fashion industry. It's more likely I'll go vegetarian before that happens.