Friday, November 28, 2014

Rethinking Overconsumption and Reflexive Consumerism

We buy far more than we need, this is not just about wasted affluence this is about moral turpitude and civilization ending environmental destruction.

We need to understand that everything we buy has an environmental cost. This footprint includes the energy and resources used to manufacture it and the emissions associated with shipping. We live in a throwaway culture where most of what we buy ends up in the trash. However, when we dispose of something, we are adding yet another insult to the Earth. Our garbage gets transported to landfills where it contaminates the soil, leeches into the water table and generates more climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions.

If we look at what we buy and where it ultimately ends up we are forced to acknowledge that our current trajectory is not only unsustainable it is insane. In the context of global poverty and famine, the waste generated at Thanksgiving and throughout the year is unconscionable.

This is about far more than being irresponsible, our reckless indulgence jeopardizes our children's futures. Our levels of consumption far exceed the carrying capacity of the Earth. Unless we change our patterns of consumption and the underlying culture of consumerism, we will fall over a precipice from which we may not be able to recover.

Research bears out what we already know-- we have far more than we need. A 2012 UCLA study of 32 middle-class families in Los Angeles found that 75 percent of garages contained between 300 to 650 boxes. These garages were so full that there was no room to park the car. Garages are just the tip of the iceberg, the average house has 438 books and magazines, 139 toys and 39 pairs of shoes.

We need to rethink the marketing frenzy that causes us to reflexively consume. We should question the messages that purport to tell us what we need. We need to stop and think rather than buy into the collective hysteria of rampant consumerism. Independent of what marketers tell us, the question that we need to ask before we make any purchase is, "do we really need it?" In most instances the answer is no, we really don't.

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