Environmentalism and Consumerism
The philosophy of environmentalism is grounded on the need to conserve and improve environmental integrity. The green movement is the epitome of the environmental social movement. Through activism, lobbying and education the movement seeks to involve the political class in protecting natural resource s and conserving the integrity of the ecosystem. In recognition of the human role in the efforts towards the sustainability of the ecosystem, environmentalism centers on health, human rights and ecology.
In a nutshell therefore, environmentalists are involved in the advocacy for sustainability in the management of natural resources with the goal of directing the stewardship of natural environment by changing individual behaviors and public policy. Though opinions considerably vary, environmentalists range from the reformists to the radical. In economics, consumerism is a term used to describe economic policies that supremely emphasize on consumption as a footpath to happiness.
Consumerism in its purest abstract form is founded on the belief that free choice as expressed by consumers should dictate a society’s economic structure. Many critical tests describe the phenomenon of consumerism as a tendency to strongly identify with goods or services consumed especially those products with brand names that depict and portray a status enhancing appeal. Through globalization, consumerism has necessitated the rise of consumer culture.
In the post modern society, consumerism is used a means to acquiring happiness through the accumulation of material possessions. These purchases are in excess of an individual’s basic needs. In context, consumerism is directly correlated to environmentalism in situations where the expression of consumerism through the accumulation of wealth poses a threat to environmental health. Even though consumerism is not a novel phenomenon in our societies, it’s spread during the 20th century was a product of neoliberal capitalism .
As these capitalistic systems continued to succeed in building an extremely wealthy populace, globalization ensured that the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption as reminiscent in the United States was spread globally such that by the dawn of the 21st century almost the whole world has espoused the consumerist culture.
Pros of Environmentalism
Environmentalism educates, creates awareness and encourages everybody to take priority in making informed decisions regarding the protection of the environment and the exploitation of natural resources.
At the core of environmentalism is the principle of sustainability. Through calls to sustainable exploitation and management of resources environmentalism has succeeded in calling for a paradigm shift to the exploitation of environmentally friendly non renewable resources. Through education and advocacy for policy changes, environmentalism has ensured that air and water pollution is reduced through strict adherence to regulatory pollution control standards for domestic, municipal and industrial pollutant sources.
The benefits of environmental integrity are reproducible in the form of increased economic growth, well being and general good health of the general population. Preservation of all vulnerable ecosystems ensures the survival of plant and animal species. Consumerism is known to increase production outputs. Increase in production output leads to the elimination of vast amounts of waste products that are not only detrimental to all life forms but also economically unhealthy as more public resources will have to be channeled towards clean up activities before these waste find there way into ecological systems.
Cons of Environmentalism
Environmentalism has grown into a tool used by select portion of environmentalists to soot down various developmental projects that are crucial for the economic development of some regions. Since environmental audits are based on predictions of the effects projects, politically driven assessors can use environmentalism to stifle development in some regions. The zeal for a cleaner and sustainable environment has led to the creation of too much fuss sometimes over very trivial matters at the expense of real issues.
Acronyms like ‘Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (BANANA)’ and ‘not in my backyard (NIMBY)’ are some of the manifestations of the extent to which environmentalists can go. Through these simple acronyms, projects that are considerably reasonable have been abandoned, tied up in courts or vehemently opposed for no apparent reason . When these happen in the rural localities, the populace there is denied any form of income generation while the environmentalists who are considerably affluent continue to enjoy huge incomes.
Pros of Consumerism
Proponents of consumerism posit that as an expression of free choice consumerism serves to promote consumer rights and protection. With just the right amount of currency an individual is able to decide ones own fate. Because consumerism is driven along brand lines, organizations and companies cannot afford to disseminate low quality or harmful products to the general consumer because just a single complaint is enough to pull down the company. In this era of global competition, manufacturers are forced to strictly adhere to very high standards of product quality and safety .
No one possesses the right of prescribing which goods are for basic survival and which are classified as luxurious goods and therefore not necessary for survival. This is the libertarian thought. Libertarians believe that should environmentalism be used as an anti-consumerism movement, then the ultimate outcome would be the reemergence of a totalitarian society that that is akin to the middle Ages and the ancient Rome. Read also why manufacturers encouraged consumerism
Cons of Consumerism
Consumption choices have the capacity to mediate between economic growth and environmental degradation.
In a consumerist society where the level of happiness is directly proportional to the level of consumption, increase in the level of consumption will undoubtedly necessitate an equal level of production. Increased production can lonely be achieved through larger energy inputs. At the end of the production process are even larger quantities of waste products and by products. These wastes are detrimental to environmental integrity and sustainability. Likewise, increase in production will also increase the extraction and exploitation of natural resources.
Increase in the accumulation and concentration of wastes and pollutants cause environmental damage and consequently limit economic activity. Consumerism contributes to climate change and global warming through the use of products that increase the concentration of gases into the atmosphere. Consumerism is only perpetuated in the presence of huge purchasing power. This means that products like cars which are a detriment to environmental integrity continue to increase the concentrations of GHGs into the atmosphere.
In this era of globalization and the competition for global natural resources, consumerism advances inequality in the exploitation, distribution and use of natural resources. Dominant societies like America continually use its huge purchasing powers to siphon global resources for the consumption of its own citizenry. Alternatives or Solutions to the Conflict Between Environmentalism and Consumerism. Economic globalization and the economic forces fueling consumerism should be adjusted so as to ensure global environmental protection.
Consumerism as a culture will only be beneficial if it is practiced in a way that it sustains the fragile stratum of the environment that supports the world’s population. This is only possible if production systems fully espouse genuine sustainability. Environmental audits should be done by professional non interested third parties so as to offer an objective and well informed analysis of the effects of any development project on environmental integrity. Both the public, municipal and industrial entities have an inherent responsibility to conserve the environment as they strive to meet the production needs of the consumerist society.
Summary of the Paper for Presentation
Environmentalism is driven by the need to conserve and improve environmental integrity. Through activism, lobbying and education the movement seeks to involve the political class in protecting natural resource s and conserving the integrity of the ecosystem. As a social movement environmentalism has succeeded in educating, creating awareness and encouraging people to take informed decisions when it comes to the exploitation of renewable and non renewable resources.
Through education and advocacy for policy changes, environmentalism has ensured that air and water pollution is reduced through strict adherence to regulatory pollution control standards for domestic, municipal and industrial pollutant sources. The benefits of environmental integrity are reproducible in the form of increased economic growth, well being and general good health of the general population as well as in the preservation of species diversity. However, there have been times when favorable development projects have been shot down due to overzealous objectives.
In economics, consumerism is a term used to describe economic policies that supremely emphasize on consumption as a footpath to happiness. Proponents of consumerism posit that as an expression of free choice consumerism serves to promote consumer rights and protection. This freedom to exercise choice lies at the core of a liberal and democratic society. Anti-consumerism is but a tactical retreat to totalitarianism. In the exercise of consumer freedom, there have been increasing production levels leading to accumulation of wastes onto the environment.
Consumerism is that a threat to environmental integrity unless measures are instituted to guard between the over production of goods for the consumerist culture and the conservation of the environment. The solution is sustainability.
1. Carlo O, Zoppoli P. “Consumerism” and environment: does consumption behavior affect environmental quality?. Paper presented at the Environment and Society Network, 8th ESA Conference 3rd -6th , September 2007, Glasgow UK.