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The pursuit of happiness should trump our desire for consumption, argued Professor Louis Chauvin during his Wednesday talk as part of McGill Green Week, hosted by the Science Undergraduate Society.
Chauvin, a management professor and President of Le Réseau Québécois pour la simplicité volontaire, an organization which promotes simplistic consumption, pointed directly to over-consumption as endangering our planet.
“For the past 14 years, I have asked myself why we are consciously destroying the carrying capacity of the Earth and what is needed for us to stop,” Chauvin told the audience.
Chauvin’s deep interest in consumption patterns and the environment inspired him to reach out to students, and teach them about responsible consumption and sustainability.
“I am a firm believer in education as a transformative process,” Chauvin said.
According to Chauvin, our society suffers from chronic dissatisfaction – a constant need for more – which harms the environment. He noted that many believe happiness is based on how much one consumes, which leads to over-consumption and depletes the world’s resources.
“People seek the high that comes with pleasure and are convinced that this sensation is the same as happiness,” explained Chauvin. “Whether it is gambling, excessive shopping, or a meaningless relationship, we give into these addictions and rely on such external factors for happiness.”
Chauvin added that usually as one consumes more and more, one requires a larger quantity of goods to maintain the excitement. He contrasted this attitude to pure happiness, which is rewarding for longer periods of time and leaves one with a feeling of fullness, without materialistic desires.
“The pursuit of happiness is the ultimate goal for humans,” Chauvin said. “We want to be happy and we think certain commodities will make us happy or happier. The reality is, happiness comes from inside and is detached from consumption.”
During the question and answer period, one student asked whether the current economic crisis would act as a catalyst for responsible consumption.
“There is definitely an increased interest in voluntary simplicity,” answered Chauvin. “People are unable to get solutions from economists and politicians. Instead, they are looking for alternative ways to adjust their lifestyles.”
Later, one student asked whether or not a federal framework was needed for a real reduction in consumption.
“Even with federal frameworks, many societal issues, such as racism, are still present,” Chauvin said. “What we need to do is target individuals and promote personal transformations.”
Chauvin concluded with a message of hope and called for a change in lifestyle to save what is left of the planet.
“Our planet can only handle so much and so, simplicity is inevitable,” added Chauvin. “The question is, will it be voluntary or involuntary?”