A Consuming Conundrum

This is a poem I wrote for Worldwatch Institute Europe’s monthly newsletter. The original post can be found here.

I have a problem. I’m stuck in a bind;
This season, I have many presents to find.
The shops have gone crazy, everything is on sale!
The shoppers are worse, seeking their holy grail.

But where does this leave us environmentalists?
we’ve spent all year pointing and shaking our fists
at the invisible hand, the free market if you will:
whose effects are much-blamed for society’s ills

I’ll explain if you’re late to this Christmas party
consumption heats econ soup – makes it hearty!
all that spending drives aggregate demand
with it growth, jobs, GDP hand-in-hand

so spend spend spend spend they cry out with ease
and borrow borrow borrow to fuel this disease
but stop and consider from where this debt comes
nature is left the remainder of our sums

she can’t borrow from nothing, it comes from tomorrow
our partying now, will soon lead to sorrow
but here I still am, no closer to winning
the game which has the consumption beast grinning

’cause I found out the hard way you cannot go to meetings
with close friends and family without gifts with your greetings
many days after Christmas, I had to be able
to endure disappointed, disapproving looks ‘cross the table

those hypocrites say “it’s the thought that counts”
but leave them gift-less and you will be denounced
but how does one give an appropriate gift
without leaving mother nature adrift?

how do we reinvent our gift-giving season
when cultural practice won’t give way to reason?
we often do speak of a ‘green revolution’
and sometimes we also like redistribution

so let us continue to purchase our presents
but by doing so differently, make clear our intents
from Oxfam Unwrapped, I’ll purchase a goat!
which is really a much better gift than a coat

you won’t get to meet it, or feed it, or pet it
but you’ll help a poor village, and never regret it
milk they produce, and kids don’t forget
and fertilizer, so their farmers won’t sweat

but let’s say you’re not such a fan of the fauna
then may I suggest buying land, do you wanna?
coolearth.org does a wonderful job
selling patches of rainforest so loggers can’t rob

us of these essential carbon sinks
they even protect locals from corporate hijinks
in fact they do plenty of meaningful stuff
but I’m starting to feel like I’ve spoken enough

this holiday season consider your buying
consumption’s no good, and neither’s your flying
but rather than hoarding more mountains of stuff
make choices and choose that enough is enough

people are in need, the earth needs our healing
buy stuff that helps others, and pass on the feeling
for giving is rather unshakable, see?
but who defines what’s to be giv’n – it is we

so give, and be generous, but please do take heed
the recipients should be those who are most in need
I trust that you all will do what is right
a merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

3 Comments on A Consuming Conundrum

  1. Hi Daniel Yeow, I stumbled across your blog by chance (or fate!) And have to say that I feel enlivened by the many spurious facets of your creative mind. Clearly you are an incredibly intelligent man but your interest in combining science with the arts is exactly what we need in these times of spiritual vacuosity. I’m a poet (well not officially, how does one become an official poet? Haha posthumously if yer lucky p’haps!) I study Philosphy and literature in England and I’m desperately trying to put Climate change at the forefront of the discussion. We sit in these banal seminars dragging the canonical writers through the same bloody run-of-the-mill treatment, and no one seems to put two-and-two together… By looking back at our cultural history, from the glorious Greeks to the Renaissance, even to all the 21st Century renegades who reached for the pen, the paper (and the LSD!) These writers questioned, reasoned and captured what it meant to be, or what it meant to challenge how one was being told to be. Yet when looking forward, in a period of great political instability and climate chaos, where we are on the edge of economic and ecological tipping points, where is the voice we need? Poets, philosophers, scientists, hip-hop artists, anyone who has the power to change minds by being at the pulpit of culture, need to reinvigorate our collective human spirit.The art of rhetoric can be dangerous but it can also bring a tired, restless and alienated nation out of silence. When we get Beyoncé rapping about CO2 and the next Verve doing a Bohemian Rhapsody aimed from the poor voice of a drowned Pacific Islander only then will it enter into popular discourse! Anyway, great poem! Consume, resume til’ doom… just keep shopping.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.