Convenience culture: A roadblock to ‘sustainability’?

Convenience culture: A roadblock to ‘sustainability’?

I remember a friend of mine who was visiting from Germany once expressed his disbelief that 24-hour drive-thru pharmacies exist in this country. When I showed him this wonder, along with our supermarket aisle completely dedicated to cereal and of course, our Wawas, the look on his face made me realize just how much we have and how ridiculous it is that we can have it at anytime.


—image courtesy of Salembargains.com

Don’t get me wrong, I love my cereal aisles, 24 hour pharmacies and Wawas. I’m not saying ridiculous in a negative way — I’m saying we’re crazy about convenience. Especially in cities, where anything can be found at any time for any purpose. I tried to think of a list of items that would be impossible to obtain at 3am — regardless of price and budget — and the first thing that I thought of was a helicopter. However, Bluestar Jets can provide you with a helicopter or any other private aircraft “any time, any place.”

There are four convenience stores within walking distance of my house. Three of them are open 24 hours a day. Between the three of them, I can get anything on sale at the big downtown supermarket, including Children’s Tylenol, antifreeze, fire wood, printer paper and 25 different tabloid magazines. When I was scouting the house I now live in, one of the first things the previous owners mentioned about it were the convenience stores.


—image courtesy of Union-Network.org

While vacationing in Japan last fall, I somehow quickly realized and made efforts to adapt to the fact that I couldn’t find peanut butter. Believe me, I looked. Being an American tourist whose job is to notice and report every little difference, one of the first places I visited in the country was a 7-eleven. I was immediately confronted by thousands of products I had never seen before. Trying to find an umbrella and wrapping paper in a country with torrential downpours and constant gift-giving is harder than you think and it’s certainly not available at 8pm. My traveling partner, a vegetarian, couldn’t find food. Even the bakery’s goods had meat in it. There was one vegetarian restaurant listed in the dining guide, but we couldn’t find it. Mind you, we were staying in the metropolitan downtown area of Kyoto.

These thoughts bring us front and center to the idea of America’s future. Being that we have been raised on convenience, will we give these luxuries up if it means improving the conditions of our environment? We use the jargon “sustainability” and “social responsibility,” but when it comes time to put them into practice, will that mean giving up something like peanut butter or the ability to buy antifreeze at 3am?

We would all like to believe that we can maintain this level of stability and comfort — that our resources will never deplete. The truth is, we’re either going to change gradually or the change is going to hit us like a sledgehammer. In many ways, our society is anything but sustainable, and we make socially irresponsible decisions everyday. It’s become a part of the subconscious. Will survival come down to sacrifice? And where does it start?

Tags: environment

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