America’s flawed value system

Sadly, our happiness is based on how many toys we have and the size of our homes

The author, a Paradise resident, is a wildlife biologist with 50 years of field experience.

I recently read an op-ed in Forbes magazine—submitted by the IESE Business School at the University of Navarra—that offered this: “‘Quality of life’ is subjective and multidimensional, encompassing positive and negative features of life. It’s a dynamic condition that responds to life events.”

Yet Americans have been conditioned that quality of life is defined only by economic factors. Indeed, if we can afford only one automobile, quality of life sucks; if we can afford two, it’s a bit better; two, plus a boat, is good; and add an RV and a 3,500-square-foot home and it’s great.

While both political factions in our country follow this philosophy, the conservative bent basically (or at least, currently) ignores the existence of any other contributing factors while those of the liberal bent just whine. That is, until disaster strikes—a hurricane, flood, epidemic, cancer, etc. Then the RV doesn’t matter and the question is, “Why wasn’t this prevented?” Until that time, we cast our votes primarily based on a single issue: “Does it mean more money in my pocket now?”

Degraded infrastructure, health and safety concerns and increases in pollution are afterthoughts—things to deal with when we have all the bells and whistles commerce advertises we must have to be happy in the steady stream of commercials on our 72-inch TV screens.

As I sat recently in my dark living room with the air conditioner blasting because the temperature was 105 outside (and had been for over a month), I wondered: Will I be able to sit on my deck and enjoy a glass of wine as I did much of the summer 15 years ago when I moved here? Do I fear driving across the highway bridges or have to wonder if the dam above my home will collapse and wash it away? How about the effects on my aging lungs from breathing the smoke from wildfires? Do I have the same quality of life I enjoyed as a child?

I certainly have more “stuff,” but in actuality, maybe there’s more to quality of life than dollars, at least for some of us.