Do we re­ally need all that we think we need?

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Joint ed­i­tor

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures pre­sented by Rees at the an­nual meet­ing of Eco­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of Amer­ica, hu­man so­ci­ety is in a ‘global over­shoot’, con­sum­ing 30 per cent more ma­te­rial than is sus­tain­able from the world’s re­sources. Ap­par­ently, 85 coun­tries (in­clud­ing In­dia) are ex­ceed­ing their do­mes­tic ‘bio-ca­pac­i­ties’ and com­pen­sate for their lack of lo­cal ma­te­rial by de­plet­ing the stocks of other coun­tries.

My fur­ther re­search re­veals that it is not that we are con­sciously con­sum­ing our re­sources; rather, we are be­ing force-fed by the hand­ful of global cor­po­ra­tions that make con­sumer-fo­cused prod­ucts and make ev­ery pos­si­ble ef­fort to en­sure that th­ese prod­ucts sell— and sell as fast as they can.

If you look at the con­sum­able items in your house start­ing from the kitchen, to bath­room cab­i­nets, to wardrobes and to the din­ing ta­ble and the fridge, the amount of stuff that you have in there is not what it used to be around 20 years ago in In­dian homes. Al­right, our econ­omy is grow­ing, we have new money and we want to spend it on our­selves, but do we want any­body else to strongly in­flu­ence our buy­ing de­ci­sions? Do we want com­pa­nies to ma­nip­u­late our minds in or­der to make us be­lieve that we re­ally ‘want’ their prod­ucts?

I tried to find a few ex­pert ob­ser­va­tions in this re­gard and found an in­ter­est­ing Wiki en­try that read that ad­ver­tis­ing played a huge role in pro­mot­ing con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. Ads cre­ate a hy­per-real world where com­modi­ties ap­pear as the key to se­cur­ing hap­pi­ness. Some go on to say that ads are a detri­ment to so­ci­ety and its sus­tain­abil­ity be­cause they tell con­sumers that ac­cu­mu­lat­ing more and more pos­ses­sions will bring them closer to self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion. You will also agree that most ads de­pict the in­ter­ests and life­styles of the elite as nat­u­ral – cul­ti­vat­ing a sense of mea­greness and the need for more among the av­er­age mid­dle class.

On the other hand, think how an in­creased de­mand for a juice brand means a need for mil­lions of Tetra Paks (more need of pa­per, de­for­esta­tion), plas­tic bot­tles and fuel for de­liv­ery chan­nels. Another soap brand in mar­ket means the need for tonnes of palm oil, pack­ing and de­liv­ery. Another car brand would mean a need for tonnes of iron, power, and… Ba­si­cally, many cor­po­rates are cre­at­ing false de­mands, then de­plet­ing re­sources to meet that de­mand.

The un­der­ly­ing mes­sage here is that the next time you are cal­cu­lat­ing your monthly EMIs – start­ing from that for the house to that for the big TV and a new touch-phone – or won­der­ing why monthly gro­ceries bud­get is sky­rock­et­ing, re­visit your con­sump­tion pat­terns. Ask a sim­ple ques­tion: are all your pos­ses­sions giv­ing you true grat­i­fi­ca­tion and whether you must have them all. Then try spar­ing a few min­utes to think that a thought­ful check on your every­day con­sump­tion will not just be easy on your pocket but also help in sus­tain­ing earth’s re­sources – it will be your bit to­wards your planet’s con­ser­va­tion.

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