Posted: December 2nd, 2013






“Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning, “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?”, and “A Call to Civil Society” speaks about civil society, governance, and global issues. A civil society has currently been the subject of debate on many tongues. A good society serves as a symbol for a structure designed to overcome obstacles from the environment. This society also signifies co-existence with natural factors. People from these societies vary in terms of community and family members that all strive for prosperity in their own way or pace.

These three articles allow the reader to have a more informed view concerning citizens in a given nation. One leaves a personal world encounter for an abstract understanding of social connections. The aspect of social connections ultimately raises queries over what connects people in a nation as well as those who lack direct and perceptible relationships. Additionally, many environmental and economic problems have now become global in terms of scope to the point of looking insurmountable. Potential obstacles to social connection such as ethnicity, religion, ideological and religious differences pose a threat of separating people. Addressing the issue of a good society appears a daunting task, but the high stakes require otherwise.

Ultimately, four horizons including what we are capable of knowing, encounters with other people, human interactions within a modern society, and our contributions towards solving global problems all have effects on our lives. These effects may be personal, social, economic, or political. Ultimately, the three articles have a common purpose of teaching the reader to how to handle those demands in a thoughtful way that leads to personal sustenance as well as that of others. Therefore, the articles can be taken to suggest that a good society suggest one where the people within get to flourish.


            “Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning take an attempt at tracing, substantiating, and giving detailed environmental effects of many items American consumers take lightly. Through the article’s brilliance, the reader is left alternately hysterical, furious, inspired or shocked. Primarily, Stuff unfolds issues plaguing the society, those of which many people rarely think about. Questions such as “where do consumer items come from?” or “how are they made?” come into mind upon reading this article. As the book puts it, the consumption of excess stuff can be bad for a person. Ultimately, I felt depressed or overwhelmed after the article revealed how certain commodities are manufactured or made.    

            Perhaps one part of the book that would prove relevant to the Food Campaign on sustainable consumption would be that on hamburger making, finally leading to the conclusion that people have to eat less meat. Common perception maintains that a quarter pound hamburger is produced with six hundred gallons of water consequently leading to a loss of top soil five times its weight (Elshtain, 196). Furthermore, the entire process of hamburger production by steers emits greenhouse gases similar to cars extended six miles. This book is particularly important for environmentalists. Human over consumption and over population in the current society have become problems that can longer go ignored. Over six billion people are increasingly adopting the American way of livelihood. This premise implies that demand for the current resources will exceed their supply. Statistics maintain that Americans consume twelve acres of farmland and forest every year. There is a need for environmentalists to enlighten each other on the consequences of social consumption habits (Elshtain, 198).

            On the other hand, the article “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?” revolves around global environmentalism with a view of supporting consumer driven responses to environmental ills. The article primarily fosters the premise of “thinking globally and acting locally”. This means having a bad and guilty feeling over the mega-destruction of the environment destruction. The article serves as a way of displaying how a good society should conduct itself. The article attributes environmental degradation to individual shortcomings, but finds solutions in uncoordinated, enlightened consumer choice. Among these solutions, include planting trees, turning off lights to save energy, and recycling materials such as coca cola bottles. In other words, the article encourages individual accountability. Ultimately, individual efforts would collectively count for something when everyone in the society engages in such activities (Maniates, 350).

The article further states that the actual outlook of a good society lies behind individual action and choice. However, the excellence of any society is dependent on how an individual relates with others to foster collective action. Individual action is indeed positive but has an almost irrelevant impact compared to when the entire society is involved. There is a need for individual action in purchasing environmentally friendly products. The article seemingly suggests that when society thinks about behavior change, it not only entails elicits the kinds of behaviors needed, but those that foster an appetite for greater change that small personal decisions can allude. However, prosperity of any society does not rest on behavior change only. It also has to do with change in the framework and is about discourse and dialogue (Maniates, 349).

The third article “A Call to Civil Society” by Jean Elshtain talks about the American civic life as a dispersed one open to citizens from every community. The article observes an American society of civic engagement that is neither specifically economic nor officially governmental. According to the article, a good society is not based on structures of governance or work life, but community networks, voluntary organizations, national efforts towards prosperity, and local affiliates. Moral notions and norms are interconnected with a civil society. Indeed, people in the society immerse themselves into organizational and community life because of values and goods they endorse or embrace (Ryan and Durning, 340). When morality is absent, our understanding on civil society would not exist.

Furthermore, the article views religion as a factor that sustains and nurtures social hope as a feature of the people’s morality and identity. In this case, religion insists that people within a given community engage one another in a positive and receptive manner. Ultimately, this premise is necessary for any society that is looking to isolate individualism and eventually nourish a civic lifestyle. However, this article as well recognizes the collective efforts of all individuals within a society. In this case, action starts with an individual who serves to encourage others to engage in the same (Ryan and Durning, 341). Engaging with other individuals from an openhearted stance of sincerity and conviction is a civic value that needs patience. According to the article, when attempting to engage others in persuasion, it leaves one vulnerable to persuasion, as well. Perhaps one might derive from the article that civic engagement is a moral imperative that encourages an active civic life.


An evaluation of the three essays analyzed above reveals Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?” as the most precedent in terms of “a good society”. This article primarily sheds light on the many facts that people are unaware of; facts that mainly dwell on destructive effects of daily life activities both environmental and personal. The article brings out the aspect of “thinking globally and acting locally”. This premise implies that people within any given society should feel own up to the mega-destruction of the environment. In other words, taking responsibility of these actions is the first step towards becoming a good society. The article attributes destruction of the environmental to personal laxity. However, it proceeds to establish valid solutions in designed to mitigate this destruction. Some of these solutions include planting trees, turning off lights to save energy, and recycling materials such as coca cola bottles. In other words, the article encourages individual accountability. When these steps are followed, it is an undisputed fact that society would be headed towards prosperity.

In comparison, the other two articles “A Call to Civil Society” and “Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” also have a bearing on matters relating to a good society but an analysis revealed that they are lacking in offering valid solutions towards developing a good society. Indeed, both articles offer an independent and informative highlight over some of the issues and factors that hinder the prosperity of a society. Nevertheless, they offer limited or no solutions to solve the problems in question. Thus, the Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?” article was the most precedent on a “good society”.


Works Cited

Maniates, Michael. Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World? Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2002. Print.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. A Call to Civil Society. Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2002. Print.

Ryan, John C. and Alan Thein Durning. Stuff: the secret lives of everyday things. Washington, DC: Northwest Environment Watch, 1997. Print.

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