America & Its Culture of Consumption

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America and its Culture of Consumption:
A Response to Questions Raised in Garbage Land

Donna Gentile
November 28, 2010
Course Section: 76-100-P
ICE – Common Reader Essay

These days it seems like “sustainability” is the buzzword we hear a lot about. “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” is one widely accepted definition of sustainability (Rosenbaum, 1993). Not using up the planet’s resources and leaving plenty for future generations sounds like a good plan and a worthwhile idea. In her book, Garbage Land, author Elizabeth Royte describes how America is a culture of consumption. In her book, she points out that “the average American throws out 4.3 pounds of garbage…per day—l.6 more pounds than thirty years ago”(Royte, 2005). Her book attempts to warn us that if we choose to continue with our consumer culture, we will destroy our environment.

It appears that everything about American culture is about consumption. We are fed a steady diet of advertisement and illusion. For every hour of television an American watches, he or she is subject to sixteen minutes of commercials (Derene, 2009). Each of these commercials aim at convincing us that newer, more expensive things are better for us and would improve our lives as well as make us happier.

Americans want immediate gratification. Thanks to television commercials and a variety of advertising mechanisms, from an early age Americans have been brainwashed to believe that if we need something, we simply get into our cars and drive to the local shopping mall and get it. Many Americans believe they have the right to shop—whether they need it or not!

Once we arrive at the store, Americans are greeted with endless rows of trivial items that we usually do not need but they manage to catch our attention anyway. With slogans like “always low prices” on every display, American consumers are suckered into purchasing...
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