Well, for one, we don’t use more of everything, just some things. As far as gas and oil consumption, yes we use a lot because we don’t have good public transportation, and there are a lot of people who have to drive an hour or more to work each day. If we had better public transportation, then chances are that we would lower oil consumption.
However, there are things the US is doing right. We are in the top 25 of green countries. (http://www.photius.com/rankings/greenest_countries_2008.html) Energy per capita is lower than quite a few countries. (http://www.allcountries.org/ranks/electricity_consumption_per_capita_2004.html) The US is no where near being as polluted as some other countries (http://www.allcountries.org/air_pollution.html).
So, in effect, Americans do not really use more of everything. However, the reasons why we’re usually one of the top numbers is this: There are a lot of people living in a developed county who have been taught from childhood that the American Dream is to go get what you want. They are taught, essentially, that if they want something, they should have it, no matter the consequences–the “You deserve it” attitude used widely in infomercials. This idea is beginning to change for the better now. Other reasons are that many countries we are compared to are much smaller, with a fraction of the population. There are a whole slew of reasons why it’s difficult to compare countries. Think the US versus Ghana, which is about the size of Florida, and not very developed.
We tend to have the luxury of selection. Consumerists have a wide variety of brands to choose from, and sometimes we purchase things before we really need to just to engage in different designs, scents, flavors, etc. Our busy lifestyles usually mean less frequent shopping, but stocking up when we do. “Spend more Save more” campaigns entice us to get a little extra to save in the long run. All of this excess and availability gives rise to using more, compared to other more conservative societies.
We as Americans have become accustomed to a lifestyle that cannot be sustained. We do not value our natural capital correctly and reflect this in our day to day consumption. Many things in America are designed for single use purposes and thus add to our consumption.
We also are one of the richest countries in the world, so we can afford to buy those luxuries that contribute to waste and pollution rather than buying just the bare necessities to survive.
I think we live in a country of convenience. The lifestyle that we live today compared to say 50 years ago it totally fast paced, stressful & overwhelming. To make our lives easier its convenient to buy things that are disposable not knowing the consequences or the long term effects.
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