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Consumerism in the united states and its negative effects to the general public

  1. Even as the United States began to feel the onset of a recession due to crisis of overproduction coming on in the middle of 2001, the economic and political leaders respond by attempting to encourage people to spend more. An environmental group in India, Centre for Science and Environment, captures this in a simple cartoon graphic.
  2. Hence the West were consuming on borrowed time and resources from the poor.
  3. We will look at some of these next. The example of bananas discussed earlier, and how that has affected forests, environmental sustainability, economies of entire regions, etc.

Management and CompetitionJuly 27, 2006, JourneyMan. Such global inequality is very wasteful of resources, as further resources are expended maintaining this unequal balance of power be it through military, political, social or other means. As Robbins was quoted above, someone has to pay for our consumption levels. The causes of these imbalances are discussed throughout this web site, as well as later on in this section on consumption and consumerism.

That is, the consumption itself, plus the production and waste of products used in consumption. Automobiles are a clear example. Other examples include industrial waste especially when just dumped into the rivers and oceanswaste from the tourist industry including cruise liners, air travel, etc.

  • Afterwards, he was named president of Harvard University;
  • Spend, spend, spend , The Economist, August 31st 2001 This over-production and over-capacity due to over-estimating the expected demands partly due to under consumption leads to dominant companies attempting to consolidate losses and maintaining profits via things like mergers and layoffs etc;
  • They import workers to produce products After a period of boom the product goes bust on the world market which leads to cut backs, layoffs, etc.

While pollution is increasing in poorer countries as well, it consumerism in the united states and its negative effects to the general public not solely due to rising populations, because, as the U. Hence, even if pollution is occurring in poor countries, a large portion of it is to meet this consumer demand. And long before the fears that the Kyoto Climate Change protocol would encourage western businesses to move dirty industry to poorer countries that were exempt from emissions reduction targets, multinational businesses were already looking for places with lower standards.

He wrote in an internal memo leaked to the Economist in 1992 that is very revealing: Summers was talking about migrating industries. That is, moving them elsewhere, but to still serve their original purpose — produce for consumption by wealthier nations and people. So instead of expensive changes to factories to deal with environmental and other issues that the public and society demand, they have had the ability to move elsewhere and continue on without making these costly changes. As a result, we may see a relatively cleaner environment in the industrialized world, but it is not all explainable by using newer technologies, being more efficient, etc which are no doubt certainly part of the explanations.

This is a partial explanation of why some of the wealthier countries have cleaner air, water and so on, compared to poorer countries that are facing more pollution, even though they consume a fraction of what wealthier nations consume. Consumption in richer countries can come at a high price for those in poorer countries as well then. See Robbins, cited above, for a more detailed discussion of this paradoxwho also points out for example, that the core countries already ship 20 million tons of waste annually to the peripheryor poor, countries p.

It also had a postscript which contained a reaction from the then Brazilian minister for the environment. Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane… Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional economists concerning the nature of the world we live in… If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility.

To me it would confirm what I often said… the best thing that could happen would be for the Bank to disappear. Lutzenburger was fired shortly after writing this letter. Summers, on the other hand, was appointed the U.

Treasury Secretary on July 2nd, 1999, and served through the remainder of the Clinton Admistration. Afterwards, he was named president of Harvard University. Another trend is to also export waste to other regions of the world.

As one example, hazardous electronic waste, such as old computers, old computer monitors, etc primarily from wealthier nations, are also being exported to places like China, India and Pakistan, where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment.

However, minimal or non-existent environmental and working standards and regulations, old technologies for recycling and processing, etc. The High-Tech Trashing of Asia: Yet to our horror, we further discovered that rather than banning it, the United States government is actually encouraging this ugly trade in order to avoid finding real solutions to the massive tide of obsolete computer waste generated in the U.

Puckett referred to the fact that the United States is the only developed country in the world that has failed to ratify the Basel Convention, a United Nations environmental treaty which has adopted a global ban on the export of hazardous wastes from the worlds most developed countries to developing countries. Back to top Obesity due to Excessive Consumption Please note this sub-section on obesity has moved to its own new page.

You can also continue reading on below and see how the issue of obesity is introduced in context to consumption. Back to top A cycle of waste, disparities and poverty Poverty, land control and ownership, pollution and so on, are largely parts of economic and ideological systems too. As exemplified by the Lawrence Summers quote above, a value is placed on the environment, on life, on different cultures and so on.

This is so ingrained into the cultures of the wealthy nations, that the thought of massive adjustment of lifestyles and economic systems to a more sustainable consumption seems too much to consider. Instead the system is continued and maintained. Built into the system itself are mechanisms that encourage this, without realizing the costs.

Consumerism in the united states and its negative effects to the general public

For example, a population where health is generally getting worse may result in more sales of medicines or a growth in private healthcare and other knock-on industries. Instead of these always being seen as a cost, they are seen as providing more jobs and creating wealth, and as a result it counts towards GDP and other indicators of economic health! It then looks like the economy is dealing with this fine, without realizing that even more resources are used to support these jobs and industries that may not be needed in as consumerism in the united states and its negative effects to the general public intensity.

It is easy to blame consumers from wealthy countries as the sole cause of these problems elsewhere though. However, as mentioned in the initial pages on this section, much of this mass consumerism culture in the north has not been based solely on natural demand, but a created demand.

That is, from large businesses and industry wanting to sell more products and make more profits. Politically this has also been encouraged as it helps create a more conforming populous satisfied by material needs.

As an effect of this, as such businesses also strive to eliminate competition by becoming bigger and bigger, this has become more destructive than what we might actually realize, and on a wider scale.

Even as the United States began to feel the onset of a recession due to crisis of overproduction coming on in the middle of 2001, the economic and political leaders respond by attempting to encourage people to spend more. The Economist is worth quoting to highlight that: Spend, spend, spendThe Economist, August 31st 2001 This over-production and over-capacity due to over-estimating the expected demands partly due to under consumption leads to dominant companies attempting to consolidate losses and maintaining profits via things like mergers and layoffs etc.

However, even in wealthier nations, it cannot be a guaranteed success. Yet poor countries suffer immensely. For example, when the financial crisis hit Asia around 1997, at a time of enormous production, collapse meant that western corporations were able to pick up almost entire industries on the cheap. This helped destroy growing competition, as the situation was getting so competitive and fierce, that the best way for those who can to ride through this was to buy out others, merge or consolidate.

Effects of Consumerism

While capital fled to the West and there was a temporary consumerism in the united states and its negative effects to the general public, as exemplified by the hi-tech sector consumerism in the united states and its negative effects to the general public the U. Hence the West were consuming on borrowed time and resources from the poor.

As Robbins said, someone has to pay. Another way then, for industries to continue growth and profitability etc, is to try and create demand. Markets may have to be created where there were none before. But, as a result, the following effects can occur: Demands need to be created where there may have been none previously, or may be minimally.

Luxuries can therefore be encouraged to become necessities. The commodification of food, the impact of policies such as structural adjustment policies and conditionalities have led to mass production of the same commodities from many regions, mostly exported to the wealthy nations.

But the huge price war leads to price depressions. Mass consumption increases in the wealthy nations that receive these exports at cheap prices and demands are further increased. Poor producers are further marginalized as the wealthy export producers use even more resources for the drive for further profits to meet this demand.

Additional requirements are made on the environment to produce even more. Boom and bust cycles lead to various dynamics, such as During booms, there is more consumption in wealthy areas, and from poorer areas there are more people migrating towards rich countries. During busts, further poverty, increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric, and in poor countries especially, pushing the already marginalized onto additional lands because the best lands are already owned and controlled.

In worse cases, conflicts can also result. Of course, there are many other complex factors, both causes and effects. For more examples, see various sections within the causes of poverty part of this web site. When looking at the destruction of rain forests in Central America, a similar pattern to what is mentioned above was observed by John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto, in their book Breakfast of Biodiversity: The patterns of inter-related issues that would affect forest destruction could be seen in many different areas, such as banana production, citrus and other fruits, rubber tree plantations, and other commodities.

Yet, these were similar politically if quite distinct biologicallyand would typically include the following stages: Visionary capitalists identify an economic opportunity for the market expansion of an agricultural product They purchase or steal, or bribe into a government concession some land, including land that may contain rain forest, which is promptly cut down.

They import workers to produce products After a period of boom the product goes bust on the world market which leads to cut backs, layoffs, etc.

Those laid off must seek other means to survive, and in poor countries and rural areas that may mean growing subsistence crops on marginal lands The only place the now unemployed workers can find land no one will kick them off of is in the forest, which means yet more forest is converted to agriculture. They continue to point out the flaws in the accepted Malthusian theories of population growth placing demands on natural resources. An environmental group in India, Centre for Science and Environment, captures this in a simple cartoon graphic: We will look at some of these next.

Tobacco and obesity are, in a way, simpler examples that many can see being related to the more negative aspects of consumption encouraged by corporate capitalism. These two are looked at first. On the pages after that, we then look at two stark examples that we may not often think about: The consumption of these have not historically been as high as they are today. Yet, sugar plantations during colonial times, for example, was a major employer of slaves and continues to be a major contributor to environmental degradation, poverty, health costs and all manner of wasted and diverted wealth.

Cattle raising has often led to clearing of rainforests, such as parts of the Amazon — not to feed local people however, but for fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds. Such demands then serve to meet the needs of producers. The example of bananas discussed earlier, and how that has affected forests, environmental sustainability, economies of entire regions, etc.

There are also numerous examples of how conflict and war can be fueled partly because of demands placed on resources, the want to maintain a certain way of life, even if it is wasteful, etc. Examples include, but are not limited to: Even the Cold War which we often just dismiss away as an ideological battle, but behind the ideology was access to resources was such a battle.

These are not complete examples, and of course, over time more will be added here and throughout the site. Looking at some of these examples next will further highlight how in various ways there is enormous waste structured within our system of the current form of corporate capitalism.