Religion & Beliefs

When it Comes to the Environment, Enough is Enough

I go to my closet every morning, push around a lot of hangers and choose what to wear. If a favorite pair of pants is in the wash, no matter: I have another. If this black sweater doesn’t match my … Read More

By / April 21, 2008

I go to my closet every morning, push around a lot of hangers and choose what to wear. If a favorite pair of pants is in the wash, no matter: I have another. If this black sweater doesn’t match my pants, or the occasion, or the weather, or my mood, no matter: I have another. Yet I don’t think of myself as having too much. Good people (the kind I imagine myself to be) don’t have too much. We don’t eat too much or drink too much or spend too much or own too much or use too much. But there it is: A closetful of plenty. I know I am not alone. America is bursting with too-muchness. So much so that we have to build special buildings just to hold the too-much stuff that won’t fit into our increasingly too-big homes. So I am left to wonder: How did my closet get this way? If I have a lot now, then a while ago, along the road from Some to Plenty, I must have had Just Enough. When was that? Why didn’t I notice? Why didn’t I stop? Every time we turn on the TV, surf the web, or read a magazine, the challenge stares us in the face: How much more do we need? In light of this assault, it is hard to know how to measure enough. It sounds like it could be a third grade word problem: If I have Plenty of clothes in my closet, how many would I have to give away to get back to Enough? Yet, the solution lies not in numbers, but in the spirit. It demands that I reconnect with the notion of “full,” and that I cultivate a modest but satisfying measure of Fullness. If we could turn down our appetite thermostats—if we could become fuller sooner—we would have a head-start on solving environmental degradation. Imagine how much less damaging our lifelong footprints would be if our E-quotient, “Enough quotient,” was modestly set, and if we always stopped when it was full? It's true that fixing the environment requires energetic research and development to bring us new technologies at an affordable price. But is also requires a renewed awareness of the blessings of sova, satisfaction, satedness, Enoughness (a word that Alice Trillin used). If we "needed" less stuff, if we wanted less stuff, there would be more resources to share and more goods to go around, which would buy more time to discover technological fixes. Most of all, people would be happier, for we are driven to accumulate too much by a persistent, marketplace-cultivated sense of dissatisfaction in what we still don’t have, and thus what we have not yet become.

The path to Enoughness is satisfaction and pleasure in what we already possess, and who we are. In such a spiritual state, everyone—including the natural world—would win.

Related: 10 Books on the Intersection of Judaism and the Environment

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