I definitely think so. The American Dream goes hand in hand with the Manifest Destiny concept of the 19th century. Manifest Destiny was an idea that entitled the new settlers of America to all the land that they could conquer. The land, resources, animals, and plants were theirs for the taking. I think this is when we became greedy for expansion and wealth.
In today’s society, there is a very similar sentiment. Most people think of success as how many cars you have, you big your house is, how much expensive furniture you own etc. This is all wasteful spending — this attitude of entitlement makes us think its ok to live beyond our means. I don’t mean to disparage all of the accomplishments of America and all of the progress we have made, but our current wastefulness need to change. We can still have the accomplishments and progress without the waste.
Annie Leonard would probably agree. See her webfilms using the link below. She talks about the accumulation of stuff as a response to “fitting in” and “being modern” in a society that’s driven by the need for more (by companies that have conditioned us to believe that buying the latest and greatest goods is an indication of success).
I don’t think so. I believe the American Dream is an inspiring idea that is about overcoming adversity and creating a better life for oneself. Perhaps at one time the behaviors that we now consider wasteful were actually symbols of success to the dreams of that time. The point of the American Dream is to alwasy be vigilant and to take responsibility to what the pursuing the dream entails. The dream must change to continue to seek a better life, which may include fixing mistakes or changing our idea of what success or happiness are. I think the new American Dream should be to stop looking at living sustainably as a hardship or a regression of some kind and to realize that we have so many tools to rise to the challenge of living cleaner, safer and happier lives.
I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. – Abraham Lincoln
I would definitely agree with this. I think that in a nation that places such a high emphasis on success and wealth, we often let sustainability go to the “waste-side”. The American Dream is largely associated with maintaining or achieving a certain level of status, and with that status comes wastefulness. The challenge for future generations will be realigning the American Dream so that it promotes a sustainable; albeit successful; lifestyle.
I definitely think this is the case. It has forced us to become more competitive and by becoming more competitive we have accumulated massive amounts of wealth and become wasteful. Nowadays, people are beginning to understand that the American Dream is not unreasonable and we are seeing less waste (although there is still a lot). People are beginning to recycle, compost, etc. and think about the commons, not just ignore it.
Yes. The American Dream is based on the premise that the potential whether it is land, resources or opportunity to be limitless. Only in the last two decades has there been a change in American culture to conserve what we have and there might be a limit to what is available.
To begin, I think that everyone probably has a different idea of what “The American Dream” is. I personally see an outdated, nuclear family version of it based on money and consumption… so not a very positive image. Speaking in terms of that particular idea of The American Dream, yes; I do believe that it is something that has caused us to be so wasteful. Its the desire for THINGS, objects like a nice house, the fastest car, the best clothes. Its mass consumption without a second thought, being privileged enough to have countless resources at one’s disposal but having a flippant attitude towards that privilege. Being wasteful is a big part of it; The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste. That’s pretty sad. I think we could recreate the what The American Dream means, but in order to do that we need to change how we think and what we are doing to reverse some of the problems we’ve caused, environmental or otherwise.
I believe that the American dream realy began as a concept in the 1950s and 60s. The concept was that everyone in America would be able to afford thier own private space that was furnished with all the benefits of industrial society. This is comically evident in tv shows such as, “the Jetsons”. Ultimately, this conception of the American dream is based on consistent supply of raw materials for commodity production, low eneregy costs, and low labor costs. All of these were available right after WWII, but they are by no means perpetually available. Furthermore, all of these resources depend on American global trade hegemony to secure them. Frankly, that type of foreign policy is more of a nightmare.
There does seem to be something particularly wasteful about the American way of living. In reference to lorena‘s comment, we produce an extremely disproportionate amount of waste given our population. The quoted “40%” is no longer applicable because you will find that countries like Russia are beginning to produce more waste than the US (see UN Data). It is interesting that the data collected on waste production does not include the worlds two most populated countries, China and India. In the most referred to lists and rankings neither of those countries are named. It then becomes apparent that waste production has little to do with population and more to do with ideals and level of industrialization.
The American Dream is supposedly founded in the pursuit of happiness. Happiness in America was initially the concept of fulfillment through family, work and a relationship with God (subsistence was implied); this conception began to change. Industrialization imposed a polarization of socioeconomic status that was the “haves” and “have-nots.” Those that owned property owned the means to obtain more property and more money, assuming they used it as capital. Those without property were forced to work for those with property; a circumstance of mistreatment and extremely low pay . Unless the worker could obtain property of their own they would remain in that circumstance. This is how the American Dream transformed into the pursuit of property.
In today’s world, I think that sustainability as a lifestyle that could be the new American Dream. Living healthier, eating organic, using renewable resources to heat and cool homes and driving vehicles that emit less emissions would be the new American Dream.
Some European citizens have been living sustainably for many years and find they have more free time, healthier bodies, less stress and are committed to the environment, are active in their communities and practice personal growth. American are catching on slowly with efforts to reduce over-consumption.
“Just look to the Scandinavian countries that rank in the top ten in prosperity, sustainability and in the top 15 in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI.”
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