Consumerism: The Root Cause of all Evil

Consumerism: The Root Cause of all Evil

A Perfect World

Imagine waking up on a Monday morning feeling euphoric in spite it being a working weekday. You get up on time, get dressed with a big smile on your face and look forward to a week full of learning. You recall that your supervisor has mentioned something about a work related surprise to enhance your skills and you can’t stop anticipating what that surprise may be.

You step out and breathe in the fresh morning and there is nothing more refreshing than that. You couldn’t hope for a more decent neighborhood, as you can easily walk to your work or perhaps ride a bicycle but your favorite way is to use the mass transit, as it gives you time to indulge in reading on the way to work. Your children are safe there as you know all the neighbors, which reminds you that you are invited to a dinner at Aslam’s residence at 7. But that’s not an issue as you get back from work at 5 leaving plenty of time to rest and get ready for the dinner.

You particularly look forward to the precious time you spend with your family, where your wife tells you about how your children were being naughty today and your children won’t stop talking about what they learned in school. They prefer walking to school, which is located in the neighborhood where they are taught essential social skills. You aren’t worried about their safety either as you know it’s taken care of. The children are particularly excited about their daily interactions with members of your community who are employed in honorable professions.

The community you live in is perfect in every way, everything you need is either grown in your own backyard or it is available in the establishments present in your neighborhood. Very few times, you are required to travel to a large store for which you make use of the free shuttle service or take the neighborhood car, the cost of which is borne collectively. All in all, you would be living a peaceful and content life without worries.

Reality Check

Now coming back to reality, the neighborhood where you live is hardly safe or any other for that matter and you live in constant fear of life and property. Relationships with neighbors and friends are nothing but a burden and your family system is under threat. You have a job which you hate and your work requirements are so tedious that there is hardly any room for quality family time let alone socializing. You leave home before your children are awake and reach back at a time when they are fast asleep. All this is done in the name of earning a living so that you can afford a good standard of living.

This is a good term to justify your machine like work style, only until the point where you consider what a good standard of living comprises of. It doesn’t mean a healthy family lifestyle with great friends and good humanistic values, instead it is the term used to describe the never ending approach to acquire more wealth so that you can afford to buy better stuff; from an apartment to a bigger house to a mansion and then multiple mansions and so on but at what cost? That is not worth considering.

We have reached a point where we can no longer differentiate between needs and desires. For instance, we just have to have that new iPhone, why? because ‘I need to have it’. Really? Need? Or perhaps it’s your uncontrollable desire which has been induced by the ideology of consumerism. The simplest definition of consumerism is the continuous never ending demand to acquire an increasing number of goods and services. That means that this ideology ensures that human beings are never content with what they have and as a result they fail to acquire peace of mind. The ever increasing consumption leads to negligent inefficiencies where the demand of the few is met at the cost of the needs of the less fortunate, as explained below:

“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.”

Richard Robbins, Global Problem and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), pp. 209-210

Some of the problems resulting from consumerism are listed as follows:

Misuse of Land

“Junk-food chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut, are under attack from major environmental groups in the United States and other developed countries because of their environmental impact. Intensive breeding of livestock and poultry for such restaurants leads to deforestation, land degradation, and contamination of water sources and other natural resources. For every pound of red meat, poultry, eggs, and milk produced, farm fields lose about five pounds of irreplaceable top soil. The water necessary for meat breeding comes to about 190 gallons per animal per day, or ten times what a normal Indian family is supposed to use in one day, if it gets water at all.”

… Overall, animal farms use nearly 40 percent of the world’s total grain production. In the United States, nearly 70 percent of grain production is fed to livestock.

— Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest, (South End Press, 2000), pp. 70-71.

  • Rising demand requires a rise in production. Agricultural produces is maximized through the use of altered fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. These in turn deplete the quality of the soil, pollute fresh water. Furthermore the resultant products are better in size but not in nutrients as a consequence majority of the people face some sort of deficiency. A large chunk of the wheat that is produced is used for biscuits rather than going to the poor man
  • Monocultures are causing loss of diversity in crop species.

Hunger and Poverty:

One of the most common issues is the inequality of wealth. The rich continue to become richer while the poor continue to become poor. Consumerism has changed the way we think. Our social status and wealth determines our place in society, whereas in the good old days this was determined on the basis of intellect and traditions. Consumerism has made us inhumane ignorant machines whose happiness depends upon our consumption and instead of sacrificing our luxury for the needs of the less fortunate, we tend to take what little they have to satisfy our desires.

Pollution

  • Increasing production is necessary but not of the necessities but of products which are in high demand. This production requires factories which are polluting earth to the point that it might lead to the extinction of human race entirely.
  • Workers who work in factories have no access to what they produce instead they are rewarded by loss of hearing capability due to the noise pollution of these factories.
  • Littering of large areas with fly ash, metal scrap leads to soil pollution.
  • Junk that fill landfills because both land and sea pollution. Nowadays seas have more plastic in them then a plastic factory itself.
  • Small bars of chocolates which is available for those who can afford it, has a 4 layered packing which results in 4 times the waste.

In short, consumerism is the root cause of any kind of pollution you can think mainly due to the never ending desires which are induced through it. Imagine the perfect world scenario presented in the beginning with the promise of leading a content life that is only possible if consumerism is curtailed.

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