Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type



Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Haffrey

Third Advisor

Dr, David Youkey


This project was undertaken to explore three very distinct yet related ideas: (1) How consumerism has contributed to a significant degradation of our natural environment; (2) How our mental health and wellbeing have been corrupted as a result of our culture of affluence; (3) Whether or not consumerism has helped contribute to a salient moral degradation of society. Through a careful process of research and study on material already published on these topics, what follows is a synthesis of expert analysis representing a variety of academic and vocational fields. It’s becoming clear that material wealth consistently fails as an adequate barometer for one’s chances at happiness in today’s society. Yet at an alarming rate, our citizens are turning to the acquisition of material things to satisfy programmed desires that are neither fulfilling nor sustainable. The earth is being tested of its ability to provide for our extractive demands. In the interest of preserving what healthy ecosystems we have left, and in preserving our valuable sense of autonomy, we must redefine what it is that makes us truly happy. The answer lies in placing emphasis on the inherent value of our natural environments and certainly on the closeness of our personal relationships.