NOTHING VENTURED: William Rees of the University of British Columbia reports that human society is in a "global overshoot," consuming 30 percent more material than is sustainable from the world's resources. Pictured: A "Buy Nothing Day" activist passes leaflets in San Francisco.Image: Steve Rhodes
Dear EarthTalk: I don’t hear much about the environmental impacts of our consumer culture any more, but it seems to me that our “buy, buy, buy” mentality is a major contributor to our overuse of energy and resources. Are any organizations addressing this issue today?—M. Oakes, Miami
There is no doubt true that our overly consumerist culture is contributing to our addiction to oil and other natural resources and the pollution of the planet and its atmosphere.
Unfortunately the tendency to acquire and even horde valuable goods may be coded into our DNA. Researchers contend that humans are subconsciously driven by an impulse for survival, domination and expansion which finds expression in the idea that economic growth will solve all individual and worldly ills. Advertising plays on those impulses, turning material items into objects of great desire imparting intelligence, status and success.
William Rees of the University of British Columbia reports that human society is in a “global overshoot,” consuming 30 percent more material than is sustainable from the world’s resources. He adds that 85 countries are exceeding their domestic “bio-capacities” and compensate for their lack of local material by depleting the stocks of other countries.
Of course, every one of us can do our part by limiting our purchases to only what we need and to make responsible choices when we do buy something. But those who might need a little inspiration to get started should look to the Adbusters Media Foundation, a self-described “global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.”