The Importance of Ending Consumerism

by Catherine Baab

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    America is the world’s biggest and most earnest consumer.  Within the national culture, there is a tremendous emphasis placed on the acquisition of goods, and subsequently, the cultivation of luxury.  The American dream itself implies material gain, the pot of gold at the end (or top) of the socioeconomic ladder.  Collectively and personally, Americans identify themselves through consumerist attitudes and practices.  Ironically, the price of such consumerism is far greater than the simple cost of any given product; though not necessarily in terms of currency, but that of planetary expense.  The harm done to Mother Earth is substantial both in its scope and rate of growth.  Luckily, though, it is also avoidable.

 Clearly, one of the best ways to aid the environment is to eliminate excess.  By excess, I mean the needless proliferation of products, elaborate packaging and the waste that such extravagances necessitate.  The overuse of fossil fuels in production, waste products created by industry and the damage rendered to the landscape, all direct outgrowths of consumerist practices, contribute to the destruction of our most valuable resources, such as clean water, and air.  Still, American society continues to heedlessly grow more and more materialistic each year.

 As a wealthy and powerful nation, we Americans seem to give credence to the philosophy that if we have the economic means, we should acquire all that we can.  This ideology is merely the reflection of another: might makes right.  Yet, our government is often intervening in foreign affairs which do not concern our country in an immediate sense; cases in which a weaker nation or group is being victimized by a stronger party, for example, U.S. intervention in the Bosnian conflict in the late 1990s.  Thus the contradiction is established between our military or foreign policy and that of our economic patterns and practices.  Truly, should not the environment be defended in the same fashion as the weaker nations to whose defense we rush as a matter of custom?

 The present state of the environment in America demonstrates an acute lack of foresight and an abundance of greed.  Depressing though it may be, it is time that we, as nation, came together to truly evaluate the problem.  Additionally, it is time that we eliminated the wheat from the chaff of our lives, the harmful luxury from the necessity.  The effect of such a reduction in lifestyle on the environment could be observed nearly immediately.  Perhaps the economy would suffer temporarily, but hopefully, it would be redirected somehow so that its aims and output seek to achieve goals differing from that of the quick buck, the consequences of which have added to the currently destructive market.  Our identity as a people and a nation would benefit from an end to unchecked consumerism.  Material objects, the lack of surplus of which had previously determined our value as individuals, would no longer be employed to provide our image, but merely serve a more limited function.

 In conclusion, I believe that an end to consumerism would greatly aid the planet, and help conserve natural resources; furthermore I believe that the enlightenment of the public on this matter is altogether possible.  All that is required of we Americans is the letting go of a skewed value system, one which is no longer environmentally viable.

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