Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Consumerism consumption and waste - Template for development?

As per Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as the world's leading spenders, Americans (5% of world population) use:
  • 20 % of the world's metals,
  • 24 % of the world's energy
  • 25% of the world's fossil fuels.
  • Own twice as many cars,
  • Drive two-and-a-half times as far
  • Use 21 times more plastic than their 1950 counterparts.
  • American ownership of air conditioners also increased from 15 to 64 percent between 1960 and 1987; color TVs from one to 93 percent.

In past few months , increasing food prices have made headlines throughout the world. US president Bush even blamed increasing prosperity of Indian middle class for food shortage. In India itself, Agriculture minister has attributed food crisis to India's changing diet patterns. South Indians are eating more wheat and north Indians are cooking more rice, he said, leading to food crisis. Indian Prime minister, on other hands think that food crisis is due to diversion of arable land from food crops to bio-fuels. In this spate of global blame game, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general said something which should have been so obvious to all, that "world has consumed more than it has produced."

Increasing Consumerism - Who is world's largest consumer? Without doubt it is USA and then Europe. In decade of 1990, 20% of world's population (mostly in USA and west) consumed 80% of world's resources and generated 80% of world pollution. USA which is template for modernity and progress in our times is biggest glutton of all.In modern world which we live in, progress and development is often equated with increasing consumption. I am not economist, but don't most of economic indicators like GDP, PPP etc.. ultimately indicate a society's "capacity to consume"? The more you can consume, the more developed you are. India is developing at rate of 8%/year and China is probably 10%/year. It means demand and consumption is increasing at same rate every year. Same is true for most of other developing and developed countries. Consumerism is at all time high. The whole society seems to be in a big orgy of demand and consumption. Wanting more is fashionable. "thode main hi satisfy kyon ho? " SRK tells us on TV. All pervasive advertisement machinery keeps blaring messages of new wants constantly. Not needs, but wants. You are constantly reminded that you need to buy, you need to consume. Creating collective illusions of needs. It keeps society moving. Like electric current needing potential difference to flow , wants and consumption is what we need to move.

Urabanisation boon or bane? - Economics tell us that Modernity has always come with urbanization. Most of modern countries are hugely urbanized with mega cities. Cities which are are den of consumerism and consumption. Cities which are collection of men living in concreted forts, in their own self obsessed cocoons. Cities demand and consume, very often never being aware of environmental cost at which demands are met. Cities only see finished products, never the process or the waste. Shopping malls sell products you would never need. Be modern, buy tinned food. Buy more plastic. Blinded by gloss, glitz and lights of city , its denizens are on self administered anesthesia, never aware of pain. Cities, for whom, environment is nothing more than artificially created gardens , ponds and caged animals in zoos, all within its perimeter.

Led by USA, more and more countries are adopting a template of development which in long run is going to harm our collective well being. unfettered Growth, voracious consumption and consumerism has already made a serious impact on our environment and there are enough signs of fragile balance of our ecosystem being dented. Annual growth, increased productivity, urbanization, would ultimately lead us where? How long would it continue? Isn't it time to stop for a while and think!Instead of copying a model of development which is undeniably focussed on materialism, isn't it time that we also look into some eastern thoughts which have always preached a simple, balanced lifestyle in harmony with our nature!!

Is it a time to downshift !

1 comment:

Digvijay said...

"Walk like a man, even though you walk alone!
Why court approval, once the road is known?
Let come who will, but if they all stay home,
The goal still awaits you: Go on alone!
Follow your dream, though it leads to worlds unknown!
Life's but a shadow, once your dreams have flown.
What if men cry, "Your dream is not our own!"
Your soul knows the answer: Go on alone!
Give life your heart. Bless everything that's grown.
Fear not the loving: All this world's your own.
Make rich the soil, but once the seed is sown;
Seek Freedom, don't linger: Go on Alone!" -(Anonymous)