1. Firstly, I will give an introduction about consumerism and its evolution throughout time and, to get a general picture of the subject, I will try to present different views on consumption, that is to say, advantages /disadvantages or pros and cons of consumerism 2. Afterwards, Ill focus on problems of over-consumption, concerning the environment… 3. And finally, I´ll give some ideas about what we can do (these are…solutions) as well as some conclusions
1. Consumerism is a phenomenon that was always immanent in the relatively developed societies, where people purchased goods and consumed resources excessive to their needs. However, there was a major change after the Industrial Revolution, when the scarcity of resources was overcome and a huge variety of goods in unlimited amounts became available to a wide range of people. The Industrial Revolution and several other factors created capitalism – a new type of economy that resulted in a rapid growth of a middle class in developed countries. Middle class started to have money not only to cover their basic needs but also more. In 1899 Thorstein Veblen called it the “leisure class” Billions of people worldwide now belong to the “consumer class”. Items that at one point in time were considered luxuries- televisions, mobile phones, computers, air conditioning- are now viewed as necessities. We are essentially basing our happiness around material possessions and demanding the best and biggest items (like houses, cars…) money can buy, and our lifestyles are devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods. As we are constantly exposed to mass media and popular culture in our modern society, consumerism has penetrated into every aspect of our lives, dictating our own beliefs, values and wants. Regarding pros and cons:
On the one hand, we can state that rising consumption has helped meet basic needs and create jobs. There is no doubt whatever about this: more consumption involves more production, sales, jobs…. Which are good and positive aspects in a capitalist system. In fact, some people argue that consumerism not only cannot delete or destroy our society, but also it is something essential for the society and it strongly benefits the economy. On the other hand, there is another view that establishes that the huge and continuously increasing consumer demand has been getting the planet out of balance for many years. We are facing a problem of over-consuming that is undermining the natural systems that we all depend on, and making it even harder for the poorest or developing countries to meet their basic needs.
2. This trend of over consuming and throwing out what we don´t want is having devastating / destructive effects on the environment (the exhaustion of Earth´s resources, uncontrolled air, water and soil pollution and a threat to human rights; sweatshops with ridiculous wages and horrible working conditions with huge injury rates. These are the costs of consumerism. There are many ways that consumerism can affect the environment. Consumerism can cause air and water pollution, land contamination, and forest degradation. Consumption itself, plus the production and waste of products used in consumption is related to pollution. Industrial waste (especially when just dumped into the rivers and oceans), waste from the tourist industry (including cruise liners, air travel, etc.), waste from industrial agriculture, and automobile emissions are examples of air and water pollutions caused by consumerism. Tobacco production, for example, can lead to soil degradation and land contamination. Plastic bags are good example of how consumerism can affect our environment. Plastic bags effect our environment because when they are thrown out they can get washed into our water ways .when they reach the rivers and oceans, animals can get caught up in the plastic bag and suffocate. The buying and selling of fuels is also a major issue because the machines it goes into turns it into a poisonous gas (carbon monoxide) which is omitted into the world’s atmosphere.
3. So what is the solution? Can we do anything to change the consumerist society? Yes, we can and more than that – we have to. What the anti-consumerists propose is – to own less and to enjoy what you own more. Basically, many things we buy we don’t need. As it goes in an anonymous quote “We buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know”. And therefore, thoughtful consuming will finally get us to the point of rational usage of natural resources. In order to change, we will have to get rid of a throw-away mentality. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is a simple anti-consumerist mantra. And it does work, even if you think that you alone will hardly make any difference.