Do we really need all that we think we need?
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.