To the Editor:

In his column (“Consumer spending: solution to the economic crisis,” 11/6), William Edwards advocated increased private consumption, otherwise “things will definitely get worse before they get better.”

He is grossly misleading his readers.

The United States, though only around one 24th of the world’s population, manages to execute one fourth of the world’s consumption of perishable goods and energies. While we may have the leading global gross domestic product, our ecological consciousness leaves much to be desired; if the whole world consumed like the United States, precious resources would quickly vanish.

The current minirecession pales in comparison to the toll environmental destruction will take on humans. When we exhaust our fossil fuels, thousands (if not millions) will lose their jobs in the transportation and heating businesses, not to mention deleterious ripple effects.

The culture of consumption is ethically questionable at best, considering the global scarcity of goods. Edwards does a gross disservice by claiming it is somehow every U.S. citizen’s duty to “[pump] money into the system” and perpetuate our impending ecological apocalypse.

Like Edwards, I urge people to reconsider their “individual consumption decisions” this holiday season. But proper reconsideration should guide people away from consumption, not toward it.

While Edwards dreams of “a strong holiday season, replete with consumer spending,” I urge exactly the opposite. Give gifts that have thought and meaning, not mere “dollar-pumping” knick-knacks. If you insist on spending money, give to local charities and nonprofits in someone’s name (there are plenty of opportunities post-Sept. 11).

But above all, don’t buy into the culture of consumption. It is not your duty to sacrifice the environment on the altar of economics. You’re not a “hippie,” or “subversive,” or “communist” if you refuse to bow to the consumption culture — you’re simply a responsible global citizen.

Aaron Goldhamer ’03

November 7, 2001