What began as a debate over the dinner table at the Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall festered into the ominous realization that we are all unsuspecting advocates for a consumerist society. Well, not necessarily all, but most of us. As we ate dinner with each other on a busy, work-filled Sunday, my friends and I found ourselves engaged in an intense discussion over a rather odd controversy: green grass.

A friend of mine had pitted himself against the entire table of 11 people, voicing his individual acrimony toward the green lawns many of us had been raised to love. The rest of us were infuriated; we couldn’t fathom why our beloved green grass was even up for question. Many of us justified that lawns are good for the property boundaries, the multitude of recreational uses they can provide and for being one of the more admirable components of the suburban aesthetic. I, too, argued against him, but as I soon as I said, “We want it for the aesthetic,” I shuddered.

I know why he continued to argue even when we were so appalled by his ridiculousness. Intuitively, he knew that our concept of beauty should transcend beyond mere aesthetic. He was crying out for a society that values the natural beauty of our world instead one that orients our likings to the lifestyles we were raised with and leads us to avoid being independent, real and natural. What he realized is what many of us have not come to terms with: We will always uphold our culture before we give our attention away to our environment.

We interact every day with the people around us, waking up and eating breakfast, traveling to school or work, earning money at work and giving it back to our economy at the store, using social media and investing time in our physical and mental health. But we are never truly thinking in the best interest of our society each day we interact with it — we are merely using it, consuming it. Every day, millions of us consume the electrical and nonrenewable energy in our infrastructure, consume the satisfaction of data presented in all sorts of forms on our various social media apps, consume the conveniences of processed goods and acquiring necessities digitally and consume the idea that the way we serve back to our resourceful society is through money. As we spend money toward the irrigation of our green lawns, for instance, we are usually wasting 50 percent of our water in runoff and experience the consequences of dry spells in large regions like California as a result. Thus, what we should have come to realize by now is that this idea we have created for ourselves is dangerously far from the truth — the way we give back to our civilization is to act so that it may persist well into the future.

For some, the aesthetic of a manicured backyard, artsy social media account or display of wealth in the form of a house or a car is worth it. Our society has somehow ingrained in our psyche that we are missing out if we don’t have these things or if we are not striving to achieve these things in the future. When our circumstances put us outside of or away from these goals, we will naturally feel excluded and can develop depression because of it. When we are placed outside of an environment we are predisposed to prefer, we will naturally strive to become a part of that environment again. For instance, we are prone to changing cities with the mental goal of reigniting the chance for new opportunities to continue our growth if our current surroundings prevent that. Many physically travel to scenic, more pleasurable places during the winter to avoid seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that reduces the body’s ability to feel mentally and physically energized during gloomy seasons.

I blame our materialistic society for causing us to orient ourselves toward material achievements and to do all that we can to avoid being excluded from that material lifestyle based on the hard feelings that would follow. Had we prioritized and normalized a society oriented around the health of our environment, we would be able to project a bright future for our civilization today because we would have understood that our future is inevitably more important than an aesthetic culture. In theory, we should be able to resolve what we are to blame for. But as we seek to discover ourselves and to be able to tell our individual stories, we will never truly stay connected with the power that exists in the masses and therefore will never be able to make a drastic enough change to our society’s ways.

At this point, I would just like to thank my friend, the rebel and the idealist in this society, for enlightening me on how to be a realist in that other world where we value the common sense of sustaining our future.

Kianna Marquez can be reached at kmarquez@umich.edu.

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