A couple of weeks ago via the medium of blogging, I raised the issue of consumerism and tried to provide a definition of it. I also attempted to indicate that it is one in a large group of interlinked issues that are contributing to potentially irresversible ecological damage and exploitation of some of the inhabitants of developing nations. The many thought provoking and heart-felt comments that blog post received (thanks so much! Keep 'em coming!) really emphasised to me this myriad of interwoven global concerns.
If it is at all possible to do so, I think it would be beneficial to attempt to outline these main topics that we are dealing with. As I say, these issues and problems are clearly entwined, some causing and/or perpetuating others. Therefore it is pretty much impossible to research or discuss one in isolation. That said, I do see it as advantageous to try to define particular topics and threads, because they can provide an 'in' for our investigations, self-education and discussions. Without having somewhere to start (or a key-word to type in!), the whole big mess looks pretty daunting, and even potentially hopeless.
So, as far as I can figure out, here are the main topics that those interested in sustainability are concerned with:
- The exploitation of workers in developing countries, many of whom work in dangerous and unpleasant conditions for excessive lengths of time with little or no security, breaks, holiday etc. for very low wages to produce the goods that shoppers in developed countries are then able to purchase at low cost.
- The disposibility of consumer goods, either due to their design and lifestyle application, or because of perceived 'value'.
- Environmental damage resulting from the sourcing of raw materials, production processes and tranportation of products.
- Insufficient recycling schemes in many areas.
- Landfills, areas of countryside, towns and bodies of water clogged with discarded products and packaging.
- Lack of agreement within or legislation from our governments and international organisations to enforce corporations or individuals responsible to implement positive changes.
- The grip of power corporations have over our goverments and economies which prevents action in the interest of the environment or human rights over profit.
- Lack of consensus about what, if anything, we can do as groups or individuals to change the current situation.
- Lack of easily accessible knowledge on who/what/how to avoid the most damaging companies/products/services.
- Limited or lacking education for young people on how to live sustainably and economically (for example, sewing, cooking, gardening or DIY lessons in schools).
- The way in which the media and advertising (working for companies looking to expand market share and profit) invent, perpetuate and exaggerate both the view that we are entitled to whatever we want, and the confusion between the concepts of 'want' VS 'need'. Also, the perception that old and secondhand things are subsequently 'dirty' and to be avoided or discarded, and that new things hold a higher value, even if they are inferior in quality.
The comments I received from my 'Consumerism and Craft' post included many fascinating thoughts and ideas on what could be done to implement change, and lots of useful sources of information and links. All of this I will address and investigate in blog posts to come, which I hope will instigate more sharing of thoughts and information. This post, however, as you can see is basically just a list of issues. If you feel I have missed a related and important issue that doesn't come under the points I above, please leave a comment. Let's figure out what the hell we are dealing with here.