04/15/2009 11:13 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

'Culture of Recession' to a Culture of Abundance

Famed prognosticator Faith Popcorn says we've already been living in a culture of recession for the last few months - and finding "creative, innovative and even desperate ways to manage [our] lives in new ways." According to Faith, though it's a painful process, we'll probably all emerge the better for it."

Popcorn sees this expressed in consumers buying less in virtually every product category - 90 percent of females recently surveyed and 79 percent of males are just purchasing less stuff. We're opting for a simpler life instead, Popcorn says. Enter hyper-miling, victory gardens, uber-cocooning.

These trends may be seen as positive in the sense that our culture is overrun with stuff anyway, and a lot of it is stuff we just don't need. Over-sized bling bags (unless they carry your groceries) and fancy bottled water, bye-bye. Instead, Popcorn says that corporations that want to keep their customers - especially the moms holding the purse strings - will have to not only watch prices but keep their attention on 'feel good' sustainability and ethics issues.

green stairs by extranoise @ flickr

That's also all to the good, too. Sustainability is generally money-saving (though it requires the long view) and corporations that embrace it tend to find innovative new ways to do more with less and to use resources in new and efficient ways.

But one interesting counter-trend that Popcorn also discovered is that a sizable minority of youth (35 percent of those she surveyed) were going in the opposite direction within the culture of recession - not just spending more, but partying like it's 1999, drinking and smoking more (uh-oh) and having more sex.

Seems like a disturbing contradiction, but it follows one of Nature's precepts. For while it's all well and good to practice economy and efficiency, using Gaia's resources humbly and well, taking care of the eco-services that we all rely on, we also have to realize that Nature LOVES abundance. Human nature loves abundance.

Architect and designer William McDonough with his partner Micheal Braungart described it well, using the metaphor of the cherry tree, in the book Cradle-to-Cradle.

"Consider the cherry tree...the tree makes copious blossoms and fruit without depleting its environment. Although the tree actually makes more of its "product" than it needs for its own success in an ecosystem, this abundance has evolved to serve rich and varied needs."

To move from the culture of recession to the culture of abundance is not easy. But it is part of our human nature, and recession is positive in that it makes us (whether we're willing or not) re-assess, and chose to do things more intelligently next time. The world is in constant yin-yang, from the abundance of spring to the seeming desolation of winter.

But this winter the human race might do well not just to count nickles and cocoon, but also to consider in big, broad strokes how to design the next phase of civilization. The key, of course, is to base large-scale green planning on that ever-abundant energy source, the sun. If we can keep reminding ourselves to use the collective force of our human intelligence to harness the collective power of our star and its adjunct wind and water energies, the world may still be a warmer place, but also an infinitely more abundant place. Green abundance - right now it sounds good.