As we have many times heard that consumption is what drives the economy. We got the idea that how increase in disposal income and as result of that increase in consumption can create national wealth and spread harmony. So many times the consumption trend is followed to understand the progress that a nation is making. True in terms of economics that might be the case. But when we talk about sustainability, then is consumption or over consumption good? Actually its a bane for long term sustainability.
I was watching a very interesting video in the site “Story of Stuff”. It talked about the linear chain that we humans follow to extract, produce, distribute, consume and finally dispose of waste. This linear chain is the cause of concern when it comes to sustainability. What we are doing is constantly extracting natural resources, which many a times are non-renewal resources, producing goods and products for our consumption needs to be fulfilled. Consumption needs that is something which has magnified in the last two decades or so. This exponential increase in consumption has resulted in the huge amount of waste that we are creating. And we don’t have any proper recycling or replenishment system in place. Study says that at this rate we need four earths to satisfy our needs but unfortunately we have only one.
Have you ever imagined what has resulted in such a huge jump in the consumption needs of ours. Yeah increase in disposable income is one reason, but there lies more to it than just this. If we see the amount of goods consumed by our grandparents and the amount we consume we can understand the difference very well. So what has created this sudden spur in consumption.
It was actually a well planned step by the marketers and Governments who are on their sides. It can be explained by two concepts:
Prepared for Obsolescence and Perceived Obsolescence. Let me explain.
Prepared for obsolescence: This is a way in which the companies designed products in such a manner that their useful life was reduced and you have to go shopping again in a short while. From mops to CD players everything was built in such a manner that you need to dispose them off after a while and buy a new one. Think about the computers, the new versions came so quickly. But the fact was only a small chip (mainly) changed in the computer, but you have to replace the whole system as you cannot insert the new chip in the old machine as the slots are designed to prohibit the insertion of the new chip in the old machine.
Perceived Obsolescence: Perceived obsolescence can be summarized in one word – fashion. It is about instigating trends. This is the more dangerous approach and more effective one than the previous approach. As simply you cannot make everything in such a manner that it goes to the bin in a short span. It would create dissatisfaction then. In this approach through advertisement and promotions marketers and companies create a perception that whatever you are using is not in fashion anymore and you need to go for the latest product which is in-vogue. Let say for example have you noticed how ladies shoes goes from flat heel to pointed heel, then back to flat heel and then again back to pointed heel. This is done through the advertisement which tries to tell you that your style suck and you need to change. Its true for so many other products. Let say you are working on a fat computer which is doing the work perfectly, but someone in front of you is working on a flat monitor with in-built CPU, with bright colored accessories. It makes you feel like you are working on some ancient machine. And induce the buying need in you.
These factors which has resulted in the consumption boom has further resulted in increase in waste disposal rates. With no proper system of giving back to nature, and only continuously extracting from nature, we are running a fatal chain. This chain needs to be stopped or modified. How? That question can again be answered by learning it from nature, in learning how the natural production and consumption processes run in cycles and how it replenish the system from which it derives it resources. To explain it in detail we would need a long article. So, I will stop here, you can get a lot of stuff about that in the site mentioned earlier. Things that we can do is to think more rationally when consuming and do things nature’s way when disposing waste and using its resources. That way we may save the one earth that we have.