There is a definite importance placed on consumerism and a lack of importance placed on the impacts of that choice. America harbors a throw away society attitude that negatively impacts the environment and people. It’s estimated that 45% of edible food is thrown away each year.
I think it will take a huge slap in the face or pocketbook before Americans will truly start to understand how their actions affect the environment and ultimately, themselves.
I think part of the problem stems from how people are so far removed from the consequences of their consumption. People tend to shy away from the less glamorous aspects of life, but that also means they are less likely to fully grasp how their actions and lifestyle might be contributing to a collective problem. We might start to think twice about buying things that we will probably end up throwing away if we all had to live next to an unsightly landfill and live near our waste. I think people do care, or at least many are starting to care, but it will take a huge change in our mentality in order to step away from excessive consumption.
Though consumerism definitely has its drawbacks, it really is not something that will be disappearing anytime soon. Because of this, consumer society should be taken advantage of. There are thousands of products that can be used to better the environment. If people are going to buy stuff, then at least products can be eco friendly.
I’d posit that we aren’t dependent enough, or in the right way at least, on what we consume, which drives, in part, our collective neglect of the environment. For instance, so-called ‘primitive’ societies maintained such a spiritual connection with their food staples and also with their land-bases that the reverence served as a sort of policing mechanism against over-consumption, thus maintaining an ethos of balance and harmony between hunter and hunted – a healthy system of co-dependence – that even a permaculturalist would envy. In the West, on the other hand, our dependence on the life-forces that sustain us – dairy cows, pigs, genetically modified corn – is primarily parasitic. And our devotions lie mainly with what sociologist and philosopher Theodor Adorno called the ‘material production-process’ – the business of extracting, mass-producing and marketing.
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