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Consumerism is generated entirely by humans and creates many problems on earth. When we spend large amounts on advertising and promoting "must-have" products, the drive to have these items grows significantly. Our human desire to follow trends and keep up with the latest fashion along with having all of the newest gadgets makes our environment pay the price, and it is a large price. We can no longer accept the normality of living and now the only way to live is by having more than the person next to us, and we don't even think twice about it. Verdant.net tells us how this ultimately turns us into a materialists...
"Consumerism sets each person against themself in an endless quest for the attainment of material things or the imaginary world conjured up and made possible by things yet to be purchased. Weight training, diet centers, breast reduction, breast enhancement, cosmetic surgery, permanent eye make-up, liposuction, collagen injections, these are are some examples of people turning themselves into human consumer goods more suited for the "marketplace" than living in a healthy balanced society." (Verdant)
According to National Geographic, the consumer class is about 1.7 billion, with about half of this number coming from developing countries. Experts on the issue blame the problems we have in the environment on our consumerism. Worldtrack has plenty to say about this-
"Rising consumption has helped meet basic needs and create jobs," Christopher Flavin, president of Worldwatch Institute said in a statement to the press. "But as we enter a new century, this unprecedented consumer appetite is undermining the natural systems we all depend on, and making it even harder for the world's poor to meet their basic needs."
"Most of the environmental issues we see today can be linked to consumption," said Gary Gardner, director of research for Worldwatch. "As just one small example, there was a story in the newspaper just the other day saying that 37 percent of species could become extinct due to climate change, which is very directly related to consumption."
Globalization is another issue that ties into consumerism. With all the advances these days, we all need the latest and greatest features. Everything that used to be a luxury is now a necessity. Televisions, cell phones, and air conditioning are all very common things now that to some people are extreme necessities. Some of these necessities are extremely dramatic. According to the American Psychological Association, that even with the big screen TV’s, SUV’s, and eating out way more, we are no more happy than we were 50 years ago without all of this stuff. A recent literature review from this site confirms that we may even be less happy in a more materialistic world today. This study comes from Hope College psychologist David G. Myers. He stated that young adults today are slightly less happy and have a much greater risk at depression when compared to their grandparents.
David Horowitz, the consumer advocate, offers his insight on how we can promote anti-consumerism. He simply asks all the wealthy people in the world, especially Americans, to stop consuming so much. He discusses the value of sentimental items and how we should value those items more intead of valuing the quantity of our items. Even Martin Luther King backin 1967 knew that we needed a change-
"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy."
David Horowitz gives us some goals to strive for-
1. To save the planet and all of its life forms from a global environmental collapse fueled by spreading hyper-consumption.
2. To increase the overall happiness and fulfillment of the human race by encouraging simplicity, and by doing so, reduce war, cruelty and suffering worldwide.
3. To preserve the planet's spiritual and cultural traditions from annihilation in the face of the global consumer religion promoted by multinational corporations and their lackeys in national and supra-national governments.
The stuff we own is not the problem but our ownership is. Lifehack tells us this and also says that the obsession with MY car and MY house is the real problem. We invented ownership and only we can control it.
Some of the possible solutions are difficult due to the big hole that our consumerism has created. The United States has been consuming more and more over the years, and more than many other large countries such as Japan and China. We have also out-consumed the European Union. According to the Washington Post, since the 1950’s our GDP has risen from 58% to 71%. This is a lot when compared to numbers like the European Union at 67%, Japan at 60%, and China at 40%. These numbers show how much China invests and saves as opposed the United States, which has virtually no savings (Washington Post). With the combination of all of our spending and the media telling us what we have to buy everyday, it is difficult to stop this trend. Also, the American Psychology Association suggests that corporate culture is to blame for our materialistic ways. Movements such as Occupy Wall Street are fighting against ways like this. It seems that the only way for our world to improve in this area is to fight the urge to have everything. We do not need to turn our luxuries into necessities.