In my opinion, Americans are wasteful in part because we are an industrialized nation. Countries which are less industrialized tend to be much less wasteful. Compared to other industrialized countries, the US has not done much in recent decades to help reduce our environmental impact. Only in recent years has the general population become concerned with the environment and climate change. The US is also a very large country, which makes sustainable living an even bigger challenge as consumers are very far removed from the source of the products they buy, use, and discard.
Many would argue that Americans take their abundance for granted and as a result embody a lifestyle and culture of wastefulness. America, with 6% of the world’s population, consumes 34% of the world’s energy and a similar chunk of the world’s commodities. This excess of consumption is a hallmark of consumerist culture, in which Americans depend on consumption in the market system to fulfill their most basic needs and desires. As Zygmunt Bauman explains in his work “Consuming Life”, we live in a society of “spare (and disposable) parts” (pg 25). That is, we find goods that are available in abundance and are cheap and disposable, so we do not value their longevity but instead are urged to waste them and go shopping, to purchase more goods and support the capitalist market.
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