Consumerism is one of the most prominent cultures of the past two decades, with endless instagram posts creating celebrity envy and convenience products springing up from here, there and everywhere, it’s easy to say that we have become a society of ever-wanting beings.
Although, technically, the trend of consumerism began at the beginning of the 19th century, along with the industrial revolution, what I find to be more interesting in the history of consumerism is the fast-growing pace of the ideology in the 20th century. This was around the time when businesses really started taking off and luxuries became necessities; it was at this time when the infamous ‘Maccies’ that we all know and love was formed, in 1940’s California. The global population began to take a steep growth spurt – yet ironically, it was also at this time when abortion was legalised amongst western societies and the contraceptive pill became available for women on the NHS. Looking at all of this in relation to environmental ethics, one question springs to mind: What is it that is causing all of the pollution, is it the consumption, or the growth of the population? I decided to do some research and have a look at other people’s opinions on this and so read a few opposing articles. The first one argued that even if we cut consumption down by a huge amount the fact that the population is growing means the continued destruction of other ecosystems and therefore the environment – the argument being that more people means more consumption anyway and that our resources are only finite. The other few articles I read mainly suggested that the problem lies with how consumerism works. The way that products are made are generally environmentally harmful due to their economic benefits; it’s cheaper to cause pollution than it is to use clean energy, it’s cheaper to keep the animals we eat on battery farms than it is to organically source them. Businesses play on the consumer’s love of bargains; cheaper produce equates to cheaper prices, which equates to more sales and growing consumerism.
On a personal level, I actually think perhaps the answer lies in both of the arguments, but I’ve hyperlinked all of the articles I have read so that you, the open minded readers, can make your own decision.