1. Consumerism is a pattern of behavior that helps to destroy our environment, personal financial health, the common good of individuals and allows the destruction of all types of institutions.
2. 86% of the world’s resources are consumed by the world’s wealthiest 20%.
3. Two typical German shepherds kept as pets in Europe or the U.S. consume more in a year than the average person living in Bangladesh, according to research by sustainability experts Brenda and Robert Vale of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.
4. So are the world’s environmental ills really a result of the burgeoning number of humans on the planet—predicted to reach at least nine billion people by 2050? Or is it more due to the fact that although the human population has doubled in the past 50 years, we have increased our use of resources fourfold?
5. Consumerism isn’t even delivering on its own promise—a better life. “Not only is consumer culture causing unprecedented environmental havoc, it is in many cases not delivering the well-being for human beings it is supposed to.
6. Materialistic values may stem from early insecurities and are linked to lower life satisfaction, psychologists find. Accruing more wealth may provide only a partial fix.
7. Compared with Americans in 1957, today we own twice as many cars per person, eat out twice as often and enjoy endless other commodities that weren’t around then–big-screen TVs, microwave ovens, SUVs and handheld wireless devices, to name a few. But are we any happier?
8. Certainly, happiness is difficult to pin down, let alone measure. But a recent literature review suggests we’re no more contented than we were then–in fact, maybe less so.
9. “Compared with their grandparents, today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology,”
10. “Research suggests that when people grow up in unfortunate social situations–where they’re not treated very nicely by their parents or when they experience poverty or even the threat of death, “they become more materialistic as a way to adapt.”
11. William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia, estimated that it requires four to six hectares of land to maintain the consumption level of the average person from a high-consumption country. The problem is that in 1990, worldwide there were only 1.7 hectares of ecologically productive land for each person. He concluded that the deficit is made up in core countries by drawing down the natural resources of their own countries and expropriating the resources, through trade, of peripheral countries. In other words, someone has to pay for our consumption levels.
12. Our consumption of goods obviously is a function of our culture. Only by producing and selling things and services does capitalism in its present form work, and the more that is produced and the more that is purchased the more we have progress and prosperity. The single most important measure of economic growth is, after all, the gross national product (GNP), the sum total of goods and services produced by a given society in a given year. It is a measure of the success of a consumer society, obviously, to consume.
13. However, the production, processing, and consumption, of commodities requires the extraction and use of natural resources (wood, ore, fossil fuels, and water); it requires the creation of factories and factory complexes whose operation creates toxic byproducts, while the use of commodities themselves (e.g. automobiles) creates pollutants and waste.
14. Yet of the three factors environmentalists often point to as responsible for environmental pollution — population, technology, and consumption — consumption seems to get the least attention.
15. One reason, no doubt, is that it may be the most difficult to change; our consumption patterns are so much a part of our lives that to change them would require a massive cultural overhaul, not to mention severe economic dislocation. A drop in demand for products, as economists note, brings on economic recession or even depression, along with massive unemployment.