11/07/2012 06:07 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2013

Sandy Stops Our Shopping

Most of us don't think that Earth has intelligence -- not like humans. But Sandy stopped the things that we do that create climate change -- at least slowed down our worst habits for awhile.  Hitting the American northeast was about as perfect a hit on CO2 emissions as any thousand-miles of bad weather could hope for. Climate change has slowed down. Very intelligent.

American per capita consumption is a basic cause of the greenhouse gassing that causes climate change.  Call it consumer society. Call it shopping. Consuming our plastic and shipping-heavy retail, our pesticides and all the fossil uses of industrial food, and of course our consumption of fossil power: gas, oil, coal, fracking. We'll call all this shopping. All these buys have at their center, the act of responding to marketing pressure and making the wrong purchase.

Sandy, as she got angrier and more deadly by the heated-up ocean, she liked our shopping less and less. Even before landfall last week, we responded. We instinctively began our gift economies, run by volunteers. Wall Street bowed to the power of Sandy and stopped trading.  We stopped shopping. Politicians were suddenly freed from their corporate scripts and breaking the taboo, spoke openly about climate change -- in public! They even allowed for the possibility of collective non-commercial action. Call it "good government."

The hypnotic stupidity of the shopping grab-n-swipe is basic to modern capitalism. It makes markets, increases profits. But the commodify-everything ethos is too unseeing to mix with our more important civic work, like health care or education or law enforcement. Sandy has taught us unforgettably that shopping in its various forms is a dangerous mix with our caretaking of life on Earth.  ExxonMobil and the Koch Bros. etc. should never have been in the same room as the scientists advising the President on climate change.

We shop for products and power that poison the Earth. Our common sense (and our education) is dumbed down by shopping. We are in danger of not having the intelligence to save ourselves from Earth, which will defend herself. Sandy's made that clear enough.

Let's learn from Earth, that's where our education waits for us. Learn from Sandy. We aren't shopping as much right now in New York. It's not a week since landfall. That's good. Keep the giving, keep on giving. Giving makes more giving  -- it's an economy. It makes a kind of expansion that is sustainable, unlike corporate profits. 

Christmas is coming up and big retail is nervous about Sandy's proximity to Black Friday. There will be pressure on us from every direction. But we don't have to buy a gift to give a gift. We are thinking intelligently right now, in the generosity and efficiency after Sandy. It might dawn on us, as we shovel muck and stand in food-lines, that Consumer Society causes a sugar hit of temporary prosperity, then kills us.

Shopping kills. Giving makes life. Cut out Wall Street, big boxes and chains. Strengthen neighborhoods, human-scale shops, local-vore food, non-fossil transportation and power. 

Stop shopping. It's the Going Out Of Life Sale.