We are currently not only the consumers of today, but we are also the consumers of the future. It is not just debt we are saddling our grand-children with, it is loss of resources to continue life as we know it. And should the life as we know it continue? How do we as Americans teach our children that the best things in life really are free and produce far more happiness than we can ever hope to buy.
The following statistics are according to the Worldwatch Institute. Consumption today is rising steadily and to levels that we cannot hope to sustain.
People must consume to survive, and the world’s poorest will need to increase their level of consumption if they are to lead lives of dignity and opportunity.
While the consumer class thrives, great disparities remain. The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent. All of us know that disparity such as this cannot endure and certainly regardless of how hard we try to maintain, must come to an end.
The consumer society has strong allure and carries with it many economic benefits, and it would be unfair to argue that the advantages gained by an earlier generation of consumers should not be shared by those who come later. Indeed, lack of attention to the needs of the poorest can result in greater insecurity for the prosperous and require increased spending on defensive measures. The need to spend billions of dollars on wars, border security, and peacekeeping arguably is linked to a disregard for the world’s pressing social and environmental problems.
We are witnessing the problems from wealth and consumer disparity right now at our southern border. We do not have the same problems at the Northern border of the United States. Why? There is no great wealth disparity drawing our northern neighbors across our Canadian border. We are watching first-hand the lengths people are willing to go to in order to obtain the life they see us having.
“The failure of additional wealth and consumption to help people have satisfying lives may be the most eloquent argument for reevaluating our current approach to consumption.”
Individuals often face personal costs associated with heavy levels of consumption: the financial debt; the time and stress associated with working to support high consumption; the time required to clean, upgrade, store, or otherwise maintain possessions; and the ways in which consumption replaces time with family and friends.
Aggressive pursuit of a mass consumption society also correlates with a decline in health indicators in many countries, as obesity, crime, and other social ills continue to surge.
“The economies of mass consumption that produced a world of abundance for many in the twentieth century face a different challenge in the twenty-first: to focus not on the indefinite accumulation of goods but instead on a better quality of life for all, with minimal environmental harm.”
The Worldwatch Institute has pointed this out much better than I could have. These statistics should give all of us pause to think. Do we really need four or five cars? The United States has far more cars than it has drivers. This problem will continue to get worse. Another thing to remember is the date we began running out of oil and fossil fuels. Do any of you know when that date was? It was the day the first barrel of oil was produced. We have been running out ever since.
This is time to think and look within. If we truly think about it, would we continue being the consumptive society we are if we truly knew it was going be cut off by the Malthusian ladder below us?
God bless America. When you lie down tonight, think of how we as the greatest society on this planet, I am talking wealth only, can help the world.
God bless America and God bless you all from the Maverick Doctor,
Rick R. Redalen, M.D.
Pick up a copy of my book “God’s Tiniest Angel and the Last Unicorn,” available on Amazon.
Dr. Rick is a retired American physician, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has done mission work around the country and around the world. He is now on a mission to improve healthcare in America. Visit maverickdoctor.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.