We all like buying new things, Right? We buy clothes, shoes, furniture, and a whole lot of things. This is what consumerism is. The process of buying products in rapidly increasing amounts. Seems pretty harmless doesn’t it?
I didn’t think it was wrong either, till I started researching for this particular article. Like everything, Consumerism has its pros and cons. It brings the world closer together. You can go to the mall and find all kinds of international brands to buy from. Starbucks, Zara, Adidas, you name and you’ve got it.
Consumerism originated in the 1800s in Britain during the Industrial Revolution. Products were produced quickly, cheaply and in mass which were then consumed in mass. While consumerism has done a great deal in boosting economy and increasing the quality of life, it has also caused much distress to not only us but the environment around us.
Today, we live in a consumer driven economy and a material driven world. Everyone wants more than they have. With the increase in income, people want to buy more. They require things that they didn’t need before. In fact, humans have consumed more since 1950 to now than they have in all of history before that. We are brainwashed into thinking we need more. That buying and owning things make us more accomplished than our peers. Outdating of older models and the updating of newer ones drives this constant motivation to buy. We’ve become materialistic. Filled with the need to satisfy society’s redundant standards. . We are trapped in this endless cycle of extraction, production, consumption and disposal and none of these processes are as harmless as they sound.
Let’s take the clothing industry. Cotton which forms 40% of our clothing requires 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of all insecticides. 20,000 litres of water is required to farm 1 kg of cotton and more than 10,000 US farmers die each year from cancers related to such chemicals. We are shielded from the reality of what industries do to bring products to our homes. More so, these industries cause high levels of pollution from factories that make stuff, trucks that transport stuff, landfills which hold heaps of stuff, ‘Stuff’ is what makes the world go round, there’s no denying that. Yet 90% of all industrial good we buy are thrown away in 6 months.
We as consumers, play a huge role in this. It is with what we buy or don’t buy that we make an impact. It is our responsibility to distance ourselves from the self-imposed slavery that can flow from mindlessly dedicating one’s life to the never ending pursuit of ‘nice things’.
The key to saving ourselves and the environment from the maelstrom of consumerism is with something we’ve heard since childhood. Living Simple. It’s not as hard as it’s hyped up to be. While we don’t have to completely detach ourselves from the need of having things, living simply, in itself, can be more fulfilling than we think.