Task2 - Environment >> Consumerism & the Environment

"Consumerism & the Environment"

How does demand for consumer goods (things people buy in shops) in the general population affect the environment? Is this the main cause of today's environmental problems?

Consumerism is the driving force behind many developed economies around the world. People buy stuff, consequently, stuff is manufactured, and, as a result of this, jobs are created. As employment is one of the most important considerations for economists, this process of consumption is essential to keep Western economies growing. However, there are adverse consequences associated with the above practice because many of today's environmental problems are rooted in excessive and unnecessary consumerism.

When people purchase manufactured goods, there is a significant environmental impact. The insatiable demand for technological devices is the best example of the environmental damage caused by unchecked consumption. Mobile telephones are a case in point. The function of a mobile telephone is to enable communication, but this device has now become a fashion accessory resulting in the perceived need for people to discard and update perfectly good telephones. Because of the latest fashion trends, people are throwing away perfectly good products so that they can simply be a part of the mainstream.

Unfortunately, the environmental impacts of the lust for material gratification are serious. The batteries in a mobile telephone are highly toxic. They contain arsenic, lithium, lead, mercury and cadmium. All of these chemicals contaminate the environment when perfectly good mobile telephones are dumped and replaced by more fashionable models. This triggers an environmental disaster as these chemicals find their way into the water table. Ultimately, the toxins are returned to our bodies through the water we drink and the food we eat.

Rampant consumerism does lead to environmental destruction. Sadly, the above example is just one of many. We need to think carefully about what we buy and why we buy it because our wasteful consumer practices can result in environmental destruction.

Comment from ITP

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