Advent Reflections on Time, Consumerism, and Liturgy

The global spread of a consumer culture is changing human perceptions of time. Traditional rituals which marked the passage of the years and linked time’s passing to production and reproduction in communities of place are declining. Instead human life is increasingly drawn into a cult of instantaneity and speed that is implicated in the increasingly ecologically destructive tendencies of a high energy, high mobility culture. Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the ways in which a high consumption civilisation is increasingly transforming the life support systems of the planet in ways that threaten its enduring support for life. The time scale in which industrial greenhouse gas emissions provokes climate change is not however instantaneous, but instead multi-decadal. This temporal lag, while it maps poorly onto contemporary experience of time and related economic measures of human welfare, maps rather better onto the longer term life-time accounting that was common in the Christian era until the consumer age.

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