Many of the battles waged by critics of consumer culture are fought in the territory of “enough.” This simple little word just might be the hinge on which our future unfolds. Because “enough” is not so much an adjective or adverb or interjection; it is a question: Do we have enough, or do we need more? Posed more provocatively, where do we draw the line between sufficient and stuffed?
Each of us, of course, answers this question for ourselves every day, with dozens, perhaps hundreds of choices. Some answer with guilt (enough, but I can’t help it). Some with defiance (enough, but who cares?) And all of us are vulnerable to the defeatist message that no matter what we do to stop scratching at the itch of “more,” it will never be enough to satiate us.
Recently, the Dutch collective We Make Carpets put this endless quandary on display in the Moroccan desert. The artists constructed a temporary carpet from approximately 4,000 plastic bottles and corresponding lids, which they gathered from a landfill and arranged in a visually seductive design. But it commanded uncomfortable recognition from viewers – bottled water being perhaps the most fitting symbol of our acquisitive culture (in 2011, 9.1 billion gallons were consumed in the U.S. alone).
Hovering atop the deep sand, the carpet serves as a reminder that there really is no permanent place called “away,” only temporary places to hide, ignore or, better yet, confront the detritus of consumer culture. If “enough” is indeed a question, then perhaps the answer is to unmoor that simple little word from entitlement and elevate it to a declaration: Already enough, so enough already!
Lorraine Johnson is the editor of Ground: Landscape Architect Quarterly, and the author of City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing.