My turn: Let's focus less on development, more on responsible consumption

Posted: Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm writing this column in response to Nick Henderson's Dec. 10 letter to the editor, the gist of which is that Juneau needs to grow to survive. I just have a few questions, and maybe he or someone else can help me out with them.

First off, is "progress" really that important? Progress has meant different things throughout history, from spreading Christianity in Roman times to atomic supermen in the '50s. Now it seems to mean making money.

I know Juneau's cost of living is fairly high compared to the rest of the United States, but doesn't it make more sense to just buy less stuff you don't need? Why extract more of Earth's resources (which, I assure you, are not limitless) when what we have right now is perfectly sufficient so long as you're not a glutton?

Second, what the heck do big-box retailers have to do with culture? In your letter you say "as businesses find their footing in Juneau ... we will see the addition of desirable shopping venues and a greater expansion of culture."

Without reading too far into this, it really does seem that consumption and culture are inextricably linked here.

Now, I don't know about everyone else in town, but if I ever find out that my culture is based on the stuff I buy at the store, I will become a very sad person and I may even cry. Have we reached a point where Barbie and the Pillsbury Doughboy are our cultural icons?

And finally, why is there so much emphasis on this "growth" thing? The more Juneau grows, the less like Juneau it becomes. I, and many others, enjoy hiking, fishing, and other outdoorsy type things. You can't do those things in big cities. Clean air and quality drinking water are also harder to come by in big cities. Not to mention crime and the other maladies that come with growth.

I appreciate Henderson's concerns, but I do believe they are largely unfounded and only focus on the short-term, when it's the long-term that will affect those of us who'll be around in 50 years. Sustainability is a larger concern than growth, development, or any of those other corporate buzzwords that politicians and company men use whenever they feel the need to line their pockets further.

We should not work for the economy; the economy should work for us, so let's focus less on development and more on responsible consumption. Our children will thank us.

• Josh Carter lives in Juneau.

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