Did you know that Americans spend 71 percent of their $15 trillion dollar economy on consumer goods?
If the history of the Earth is compressed into 7 days, the Industrial Age would only amount to one hundredth of a second. In this pixel of time, we’ve consumed more resources than all of Pre-Industrial human history combined. Is this rate of consumption sustainable?
To understand how overconsumption came to be – we must understand what gave rise to the phenomenon. And when we do that we see that all fingers point at technology. The industrial revolution dramatically increased our ability to produce more in less time, therefore propelling demand-supply to unseen levels.
Some old studies claim that increasing production would increase productivity and allow us more free time. In fact, these studies estimated that by 2000, the working week would span between 14-22 hours in length.
Clearly the studies got it wrong, because with technological access, we’re working more, not less. We’re take our phones and laptops, so checking our mail is never difficult.
Although we can agree most people find true happiness when seeking out people and nature, we do the exact opposite everyday. We succumb to cocooning, the practice of social withdrawal. The decision to use your phone / computer instead of socialising with your family after work is a classic example of cocooning.
These are mere observations, but here are some facts that highlight the devastating effects of overconsumption – It is estimated that more than half of all copper ever mined in history has been dug out from the Earth in the last 24 years. Our continuous extraction of oil has repeatedly caused damage to our ecosystem and the wildlife that is dependent on it.
Who is the worst affected by overconsumption? The poor. No guesses there.
The demand for cheaper and cheaper products means moving production of goods to cheaper countries – such as China and Bangladesh. Here, working conditions are terrible and have resulted in several factory deaths.
In fact, the biggest issue with cheap labour is income inequality, which hurts everyone. Inequality breeds lower standards of health and higher crime rates in countries.
Media can play a very important role if they take responsibly educate the masses about the ill-effects of overconsumption. Several studies link a drop in consumption to an increase in happiness. We must reduce overconsumption not just for a reason as selfish as happiness, but because it is destroying our planet.