How Much is Enough?
A Middle Class Family in Harbin, China
It is estimated that, if everyone in the world consumed as much as Americans, we would need six planets. In a famous book written a decade ago by Alan Durning, called How Much is Enough?, he proposed that the world is now divided into three economic classes: (2) the overconsumers, which includes most middle class Americans; (2) the sustainable consumers, which includes middle class Chinese, and (3) the abjectly poor. Recently I was able to visit the apartment of a middle class Chinese family in Harbin, China. For them, this apartment was a dream of a lifetime. They purchased it and now enjoy a standard of living that their parents never dreamed of...except for now. This is because their parents live in an apartment just like it, right next door. That's the Confucian way: you take care of your family.
We in the JJB community respect this Confucian way. We also believe that believe that, once basic needs are met, the goal in life is not to acquire more material goods, but rather to live simply and frugally, setting your sights on helping others and growing in wisdom. We seek a new American Dream and also a new Chinese Dream.
Still the question remains: How much is enough? Perhaps this family has it about right. Meet Liying Yin. She will give us a tour of her house and introduce us to some member of her family.