Consumerism is a major buzzword today, a socio-economic order founded on increasing personal consumption and the acquisition of material goods and services for material well-being. Capitalism, which won out as the standing economic system after the 1990s, has rallied behind consumerism as the most effective way to grow profit.
However, consumerism itself is neither good nor bad; it all depends on how we, as conscious consumers, approach it.
A Brief History Of Consumerism
Before the 18th century, major parts of European society, barring nobility, earned what they needed for basic necessities and taxes. The northern European countries grew richer as they sent out ships to distant Asian lands to increase trade and profits, using the Industrial Revolution and scientific advancements to succeed.
The regular masses also permanently adopted consumerism after the rising wages left them with enough disposable income to buy goods that stimulated businesses growth and further raising of wages. Mainstream economists soon realised the need and want for consumerism to enrich states so that they could care for citizens and provide employment.
These nations started colonialism when the merchants grew richer, and the states earned large amounts of tax. Since then, the world has become globalized and interconnected with massive supply chains linking the richer first-world and struggling third-world economies. The global ideology has, therefore, become uniformly consumerist.
Consumerism Today: Impact on Human Society and Planet Earth
- Growth of global GDP at an unprecedented scale.
- Job creation at an all-time high.
- Higher life-expectancy and increased productivity.
- Consumerist tools like media and communication tools, making positive social change.
- Population expansion, creating a need to feed and entertain an ever-increasingly consumerist society.
- Over-reliance on plastic goods is choking marine life and disrupting marine ecosystems. Plastic takes thousands of years to break down, remaining in soil and water all that time.
- Destruction of biodiversity for mass-scale industrial agriculture that is also leading to climate change and wildfires.
- Export of polluting substances to poorer countries and illegal dumping of factory-waste and garbage.
- The widening gap between the rich and poor, leading to a cycle of deprivation, reduced opportunity, and generational poverty.
- Lifestyle disorders such as obesity and heart disease on the rise.
How to Move Forward
The solution to the above problems is not to stop consumerism, as it has undeniable benefits. It is to use our power of responsible consumerism to create a conscious society caring for the world’s well-being. Every time we make a purchase, there are three critical questions we must answer:
- Is this product genuinely beneficial and contributing to my well-being?
- Was it made without any cruelty and unfair labor practices?
- How will it impact the planet?
Based on the above answers, we can choose eco-friendly, healthy, and nourishing alternatives. We have an eco-friendly, organic, and sustainable industry coming up for food, clothing, gadgets, and many more to achieve conscious consumerism. We can encourage all companies to adopt green methods by buying responsibly.