Negative Effects of Consumerism

Topics: United Nations, World Bank, Poverty Pages: 5 (1765 words) Published: March 14, 2011
Negative Effects of Consumerism on North American Society

Consumerism is damaging to our society, in our North American society consumerism is often portrayed to be a negative aspect of people’s lives. However, one can also argue positive effects that result from consumerism, or emphasize on the negative effects of consumerism and how it can be a constraining force in one’s own life. Consumerism is an idea of an economic policy that the market is shaped by the choice of the consumer and continues to emerge to shape the world’s mass markets. Some of the negative effects of consumerism that many critics may argue and that will be further emphasized on are the overexploitation of consumerism which has lead to economic poverty, and increase in debts by continuingly increasing already high consumption levels at the expense of less developed or poorer nations. Additionally, environmentalists blame consumerism for the resulting damage it has done to the environment through consumption and wastage of products, as a result cause pollution, land contamination, and forest degradation. Lastly will look upon the effect consumerism can have upon one’s own personal life and how It can result in a pursuit to fulfill the infinite desires of “self”, thus forgetting once moral values and the inability to distinguish right from wrong. Generally, consumerism has emerged through a historical process that has created a capitalist society. That is shaped by mass markets and cultural attitudes, which ensure an ever-growing consumption. Consumerism is the general assumption that human desires are infinitely expandable, and everyday companies around the world compete by trying to satisfy those consumers’ needs and desires. In most countries, consumerism mainly increased due to the industrial revolution, which led to the development of luxury products that have become status symbols, generally these products tend to go out of fashion or become undesirable within society thus they turn to be waste, which eventually has led to many socioeconomic as well as environmental problems (Buskirk & Rothe, 1970). There are many ways that consumerism can affect a nation, because consumption is so vital to all thriving economies its global effects can therefore be seen around the world. The main issue North American society face is that most of the world cannot and do not consume at the levels that the wealthier people in the world do. Globally, political and economic systems are promoted to increase consumption and lead to immense poverty and exploitation elsewhere in the world (Shah, 2010). The question one must ask themselves is who is paying for the way the wealthier people in the world consume. According, to the United Nations Human Development the world’s richest 20% consume about 80% of the world’s consumption, and the world poorest 20% account for 1.5% of the world’s consumption (Kaza, 2000). These are eye opening statistics that display the immense inequality individuals face not only within consumption but rather society as a whole. Furthermore, to expand upon the consumption and its affect on society it’s estimated that it requires six hectares of land to maintain the consumption level of the average person from a high-consumption country. The problem is that in 1990, worldwide there were only 1.7 hectares of ecologically productive land for each person. As a result the deficit is made up in core countries by drawing down the natural resources of their own countries and expropriating the resources through trade, of economic underdeveloped countries. In other words, someone has to pay for our consumption levels (Robbins, 1999). Richard Robbins further mentions the significant risk that is involved with this ever growing economic systems and development that promotes consumption and perpetual growth. Such risks are the harm it may cause to the environment in the long run, by the way of contributing to poverty around the world and the hunger that...

References: Stephanie, Kaza. (2000). Overcoming the Grip of Consumerism, Buddhist-Christian Studies
Richard, Robbins. (1999). Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), pp. 209-236. Pearson Publishers
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Richard H. Buskirk, James T. Rothe. (1970). Consumerism, An Interpretation, The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 61-65, American Marketing Association,
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Dennis W. Rook. (1997). The Buying Impulse. The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 14, No. 2, 189-199, The University of Chicago Press,
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