You must have heard of the term “economic growth”, “global economy” on TV shows, newspapers, articles and even the billboard on the road. We all have an idea of how far we, as humans, have come along owing to the production and economic growth. We all know that all this industrialization has a huge impact on our daily lives. Our lives have become easier than ever. We have tools and machines to assists us in performing daily tasks. We all have those facilities that we call the basic necessities of life. These necessities, before few decades, were luxuries. With all that growth and development human beings have related their satisfaction to more and more consumption. In today’s world, the overall consumption we involve in is greater than ever before.
The consumption is increasing with every other day. In fact, a consumption-based mindset is encouraged. With excessive consumption, there is a need for excessive production. Excessive production requires resources as input. Countries are indulging into it on a national scale as it will help improve the country’s economic indicators. Developed countries have overtaken the world market in their respective fields of specialization. But there exists a huge problem that needs to be identified. Though the economic indicators throughout the world have improved. But the society is being pushed towards a materialistic setting. This materialism is destroying the planet in all possible ways.
Despite all the improvements in the world’s economy, income inequality is still prevalent. The decision making of consumers, owing to the years of marketing, has become self-centric. Now we are not saying that you should not buy the stuff you love but excessive buying is something you should not do. Excessive buying leads to excessive wastage. There is a chain of processes involved in getting a product to the market. These processes sometimes start with the hard work of underpaid labor. Then comes the transportation, production, finishing, packing, marketing process before the product reaches the store shelves. Where it is available for sale to the end consumer. To make the point clearer let’s take the example of food. Food involves any type of food. Before the food reaches the store shelves it passes through so many processes. Despite all this, around every year 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. The wastage comes either from excessive purchasing that is excessive consumption or from excessive production which, of course, was meant to meet the needs of estimated demand. The consumption like this is resulting in many unwanted results from global inequality hurting the world economy to environmental degradation.
Consumerism and the World Economy
It is hard to draw a line between excessive consumerism and world economic growth. The economy of a country is judged by the total sum of its goods and services production. The more the production the higher the gross domestic product of a country. Countries with higher GDP are countries with a better standard of living. It gives government strength and that transfers to the people of the country. But the problem is that GDP is merely a figure. This shows production but does not define the right allocation. It also does not indicate the wastage caused.
If the GDP of a country is improving it does not necessarily mean that poverty and income inequality is decreasing. Resources are generally allocated towards the production that has huge demand. That means production decisions are derived by the consumerism factors and not the factors of needs. The positive relation of consumerism and economic growth results in many advantages. These advantages include a higher rate of industrial production, faster growth rates, better competition, availability of better quality goods and services, availability of variety, better standard of living, more employment, self-employment, comfortable living.
This, on the other hand, needs to draw attention towards better resource allocation. Excessive wastage, that is a result of overproduction, is at an alarming rate. On the one hand, the GDP and exports of a country are increasing still, on the other hand, poverty is the same. People are not able to afford education, health care. Income inequality is prevailing to the point that people are unable to afford food and housing despite high figures of GDP indicating great economic growth. The main problem with consumerism is that it transfers the allocation of resources from needs to luxuries. It dislocates resource distribution. It does not push better GDP to be utilized in a generally better life but feeding the corporates encouraging capitalism and growth of a specific segment of the society.
Consumerism and the Planet Earth
The obvious and clearly displayed result consumerism is environmental degradation. Excessive consumption has led to resource depletion, global warming, and waste accumulation. Households in the US are responsible for a quarter of global emissions of CO2 in the year 2007 that was 5.6 gig tons of carbon dioxide. Excessive consumption of meat has led to deforestation, greenhouse effects from the livestock. Food shortages can be related to excessive meat consumption when tons and tons of grains are required to raise livestock. Excessive use of personal conveyance leads to excessive fuel burning.
Consumerism can bring the planet down to food and water shortage in the near future. It is surprising to know that a single pair of jeans utilizes 7000 liters of water and it takes 2700 liters of water for single t-shirt production.
It sounds even scarier than any horror movie.