Consumerism - What is the Real Cost of What You Buy?

Vote out consumerism with your dollars
and help companies and countries to Go Green!

Consumerism is a term used to describe the effects of equating personal happiness with purchasing material possessions and consumption.
Consumption is the using up of a resource.

Do you think personal happiness comes from shopping and consuming, or does it come from having harmonious relationships, love, peace, creativity, health, and healthy goals to work towards? Well, I am sure I am not telling you anything new when I say shopping will not buy you happiness, and when you use up a resource it is then gone!

Our view of economic man – homo economic – is this creature which is just moved by consumption of goods and services; that’s the sole source of his welfare; the more he consumes the better off he is. This is a completely false picture of people. A little introspection shows anyone that what really counts for your happiness, your welfare, is the quality of all your relationships in community.
Herman E. Daly, Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Maryland, School of Public Affairs.

Consumerism is actually the front on which we can wage a peaceful and evolutionary campaign – The Green Revolution. Our dollar counts more than you think. Corporations are not just taking our dollars, we are giving it to them and giving them a "yes" vote with every dollar spent.

We are completely unaware of what our spending is actually doing, and we have no awareness of the real cost of the goods we buy. Let me give you an example using one of our most widely used products – fuel.

At the moment, your gasoline at the pump costs $3.24 a gallon (as of Feb 26, 2011), depending on when you read this article. The real price, the environmental cost of gasoline/fuel is calculated including the cost of keeping the supply links from the Persian Gulf open, the impact on health and the cleaning bills, the destruction via invasions and war to buildings monuments and cities, the real cost of that gasoline is actually anywhere between $9 to $20 per gallon. If that gasoline cost you that much at the pump, would you be driving your car around today? I don’t think so. If you owned that business wouldn’t you close it down?

Just closing down a huge business like the oil and fuel industry seems like an astronomically big ask. The thing is, the industry is just not sustainable as you can see from the example (in the previous paragraph) Gil Friend, Founder, President & CEO of Natural Logic put forth on a recent interview he did with Greenshifters. What's more, it poisons our world.

The actual oil companies and some subsidiaries make huge amounts of money, but the cost to communities and the people is such that we are now going backwards. This is consumerism.

Waste is material where you don’t want it to be.
Gil Friend. CEO of Natural Logic

Oil and coal are non-renewable resources, meaning that once they are taken out of the Earth and used up it is gone forever. The Earth uses heat, pressure and time to make petroleum, with the majority thought to come from the fossils of plants and tiny marine organisms. Scientists think that maybe even some of the dinosaurs may be part of that mix(1).

Another theory is that the oil was in the Earth from the beginning(2) and the dead animals and plants may have only added to it. However it was made, it is an involved and slow process that produces in the end, either petroleum or natural gas, depending on how liquid or gaseous this mix is.

Scientists still do not know for sure how long this process takes, but it is estimated in the hundreds of thousands of years to make that oil you burn in your car. We take it out and use it in 100 years or so and it takes the Earth hundreds of thousands of years to replace it. Those numbers may not be absolutely correct but you can see a huge discrepancy here. It is inevitable that we will one day run out of oil and gas.

Quite apart from that, in my opinion it is dangerous and absolute folly to rely on a resource for common use that pollutes our planet and makes us and all life on Earth sick.

Ask yourself, Why are our societal foundations made of stuff that makes us sick? Our health suffers from the use of oil, drugs that have nasty side-effects, chemically polluted food, EMRs emanating from most of our technology, VOCs off gassing into our homes, and unfortunately the list goes on.

Why do we insist on using resources and surrounding ourselves with things that
make us sick?

Can you answer that question?

My only answer is that we must be insane or completely brainwashed. Now most of us don’t seem to be insane, so my logic tells me that we have been brainwashed and that brainwashing continues to keep us in a collective slumber from which we cannot see what is happening to us. That slumber is called consumerism.

All the clever marketing, advertising and lures to buy and have all the latest stuff, buy more of everything we really don’t need, waste more than we actually use, keeps us from making the enormous changes we need to be making to save ourselves, our children and our world.

Do those companies and corporations really need to make $billions? How much money does one person need? They can never spend that much, but having that much does buy them power. We now live in a world run by corporations and their insatiable need for profits. The decisions on whether the land flourishes or is laid to waste, is made by corporations. Do you really think they will opt for the decision that would see the local people, native flora and fauna and waterways thrive? Or do you think they would decide to take what they want, make more money and move on to the next place?

Have a look around with your eyes open. BP is responsible for one of the most cataclysmic disasters to befall this earth and what has happened to them? Have they been closed down, never to be allowed to trade again with all their assets and wealth confiscated to restore our oceans, communities, livelihoods and wildlife? I think you will find that BP is happily trading away, still making a killing.

Interesting term that – "making a killing". It sounds to me like making a huge profit actually means you have to kill to get it. Mmm, interesting. What if we were devoted to making our money from activities that promote, encourage and revere life? Imagine how our world would be, and what our lives would be like.

So how do we make a change over to clean, green, sustainable and renewable energy?

If we closed down the oil industry and the coal mines, we could remediate the mines, retrain the workers, rehabilitate the communities, and invest in clean, renewable energy. With access to all the profits made in the oil and coal industry, we could do all that and still have money left over. We have to change the focus of our attention to what the costs are in terms of what it costs the people, communities, ecosystems, already endangered species etc. and then vote with our dollars.

So what I am getting at here, is I want you to really look at what you buy, and evaluate what it really cost you. Did that lovely piece of furniture cost $1200, or did it cost a forest and a community, a 150 year old tree that was home to 20 different species, shelter to a family of indigenous people, clean air supply for a village, and a vital link in a rapidly diminishing and fragile ecosystem? The latter is the REAL cost, the actual cost if you would open your eyes and realize that the cost and effect is not just localized to an Indonesian forest, but will have repercussions across continents. See the butterfly effect story in my article Has Human Activity Caused Climate Change? Who Cares?

Our market is very flawed because it sells to its customers goods that have a real cost much more than the price it charges you for that item. Have you ever opened a can of fruit that was grown, picked and packed in another country thousands of miles away from where you live? In Japan those that can afford to, eat shark fin soup. Yes it is expensive but the real cost is that there is now a great imbalance in the oceans with the sharks dwindling in numbers. The people buying and eating it are not told of the real cost of that bowl of soup, and they are just not educated to care what the cost is. They are oblivious to it.

Perfect markets depend on perfect information.
Adam Smith

We don’t have perfect information therefore we don’t have perfect markets.

We have to start waking up to the truth of what we are told we need. Read my articles on Evolve on Purpose. The truth is what consumerism really costs us. Not the price tags, but the cost to our world and all its inhabitants. So the next time you shop, let your money become your conscience and vote with your dollars for a clean, green world where everyone has the right to live a healthy long life, alongside our forests, meadows, clean waterways, and fellow creatures.

1. This is known as the "biogenic theory" of petroleum formation and was first proposed by a Russian scientist almost 250 years ago.
2.Known as "abiogenic theory", the petroleum might seep upward through cracks formed by asteroid impacts to form underground pools, according to one hypothesis. Abiogenic sources of oil have been found, but never in commercially profitable amounts.

Now, after all that serious stuff, have a look at this video and have a laugh for the day...Consumerism, The Musical.

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