Whenever I talk about my love affair with minimalism, I get mixed responses. Most people seem to like at least an aspect or two about the idea, but without going so far as to call themselves minimalists. Minimalism is a tough sell in our society, which has led me to examine just what it is that stands in its way. I will share some of my ideas around minimalism here and why I believe in it. To really bring home those points, I will start off with one of the main reasons why minimalism is not fully embraced by a lot of people.

Today we live in a society that is called capitalism. Our economy is made possible through the use of currencies for the purpose of trading goods and services. Currencies are what we call money; the Dollar, the Euro or the Yen. Money really has no value, but governments legislate us to accept it for trading. Suddenly it becomes the most valuable commodity, because it will get us almost anything we want.

Lets take a closer look at how this money works in our economy. Where does it come from? Does the government generate it?
Lets assume you want to become an entrepreneur. Your plan is to start up a corporation that is selling electric cars, for example. Your business plan is brilliant. You know a lot of affluent professionals through social connections. They would certainly buy from you. Now you need money, or capital to get started. Let’s assume ten million would be enough. Where do you get ten million? What can you do?

You can present your business plan to a bank and ask for a loan. What exactly is a bank?
Our banks are also corporations, owned by private individuals. People deposit their money at banks for safekeeping. The banks can then lend that money to others, who have brilliant ideas to invest it or other means of repaying it, with interest, over time. What most people are unaware of, is that banks are licensed to lend out more money than they actually hold in the form of deposits. Let that sink in for a second! Banks are allowed to issue money they don’t actually have. How much of it is legislated, and it keeps changing, but it is most certainly less than ten percent. 
When the bank writes ten million into your account and you get to start your company, your business plan, or the promise to pay back the loan, plus say five percent interest, is the only value backing it. 
You say this is impossible? The money has to come from somewhere?

97 percent of all the money in the world exists only in the form of debt. Interest is owed on all that money. Where do you think that interest is coming from? Yes, it is money that doesn’t actually exist yet. 
We are assuming it will exist in the future. 
Entrepreneurs like you sell products to people who have jobs and can go to the bank and get money based on that. The corporations that pay them work the same way, with money they borrowed from a bank.

House of Cards
Doesn't that whole system seem like a house of cards to you? It can collapse as soon as enough people lose their jobs, or a few business plans don’t work out. For this essay however, the result that I want to focus on is what it does to our consumption patterns. Corporations are under pressure to make money, no matter what. As a result they will often create needs where there are actually none. They will constantly turn out new products or services that no one ever needed before, just to keep the buck rolling.

If you are a true capitalist at heart, you will call this good. Our economy relies on growth and what is wrong with innovation to turn out new products?
The problem is that our planet is of limited size and we share it with other forms of life whose well being we depend on. According to the book, “The Story of Stuff” we now use 1.5 times the resources the earth can regenerate in a year, each year. That figure is rising at an alarming rate. In order to extract those resources we destroy increasing amounts of natural habitat for life. Even humans are displaced and often poisoned because of mining operations.
A lot of the products we create from those resources are for temporary use. Even our high end products are designed to become obsolete after a short period. Remember, this is capitalism! We always have to keep increasing consumption, turn out new and better stuff and generate more money! More!

As a result we now have a huge area of plastic floating around in the oceans that threaten to kill all life in there, which will ultimately threaten our lives too.

Carbon Emissions
All this economic activity needs a lot of energy. Unfortunately we generate much of that energy by burning stuff we find on earth. So much in fact, that our climate has changed to a point where the arctic is melting, BC burns up every summer as we watch, “once in a lifetime storms” happen several times each year and we have a week of snow in September in Edmonton.

Can we save the world?
I’m not even going to speculate on that. We may have passed the point at which we can save the world, as we know it. But I believe there is hope for humans to bounce back. Minimalism is how we’ll have to approach it. It is the only way. 

How does Minimalism help?
We focus our energy on the things that truly matter to us.
We use everything we take away from nature, without wasting anything.
We do not create stuff solely for the purpose of making money, which, as we found out, is a belief system that leads us toward disaster.
We do not consume resources needlessly.
Once we free ourselves from the trappings of capitalism. A minimalist lifestyle can ad a lot of meaning to our lives that have gone missing after the so called industrial revolution. We used to have cultures on earth that ensured their ongoing existence by working in conjunction with nature, not by trying to work against it.​
Some of the last ones are still struggling to survive, right here in our country. They are generally not supporting projects like gold mines, oil sands or pipelines, because they know how those things threaten our habitat. Lets support them by consuming only what we truly need to be well, and by questioning the system that is constantly trying to make us consume more and turn us into slaves to pay back money that doesn’t even exist. Minimalism is the only way!