In the world where everything isaccessible, the world has failed to realize that the human race will lead usall to the destruction of the earth. People have always had basic needs such asfood, and shelter. But as society grew wealthier, their appetites changed.
Theybecame interested in acquiring things for reasons other than survival. Thisresults in the consumption where humans have made consuming a necessity intheir action of outstripping resources available to meet the needs of theworld’s demand. Consumerism is phenomenon that was always inherent in therelatively developed societies, where people purchased goods and consumedresources to the extreme of their needs.
This essay will talk about the effectsof consumerism towards obesity and the misuse of resources (plastics) on theworld. Obesity In the current modern world whereincreasingly cheap and high-calorie food is being prepared in large amounts ofingredients like salt and sugar with the addition of the increasingly sedentarylifestyles as well as increasing of urbanization, there is no doubt thatobesity has increased rapidly in the last few decades around the globe. I want to talk about the statistic of theworld obesity where according to the World Health Organization, “Worldwideobesity has nearly tripled since 1975 wherein 2016” and “more than 1.9 billionadults, 18 years and older, were overweight and out of these numbers, over 650million were obese” (1). Obesity itself does not only affects the adults butchildren as well as according to World Health Organization, “In 2016, an estimated41 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight or obese. Onceconsidered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on therise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.
InAfrica, the number of overweight children under 5 has increased by nearly 50per cent since 2000. Nearly half of the children under 5 who were overweight orobese in 2016 lived in Asia.” (1). This issue impairs the lives ofthe consumers in terms of health.
The global health problem of obesity lies inthe constant need of one to eat luxuriously rather than eat only what theyneed. Consumerism can also be blamed for other social ills where the heavyadvertising of delicious but unhealthy foods, such as sweets, and fast food hascaused a significant rise in diet-related health problems. In the 1990s, forthe first time in human history, the world’s population of overweight peoplewas roughly the same as the number of underfed people about 1.1 billion.Obesity can lead to other related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease(mainly stroke and heart diseases) as well as musculoskeletal disorders(especially osteoarthritis which is a highly disabling degenerative disease ofthe joints in one’s body). According to an article in the guardian titled”Being overweight – not just obese – kills millions a year, say experts” wherebased on a a team of 2,300 experts led by the Institute for Health Metrics andEvaluation (IMHE), based at the University of Washington in Seattle. They studyconcludes that “In 2015, nearly four million people died from disease relatedto their weight, most commonly from heart disease. But only 60% weretechnically obese, which is defined as a body mass index over 30.
The other40%, or 1.6 million people, were overweight but not obese.” (2) Even with all this being true,obesity is largely preventable as on the individual level, one can decide tostart making the choice of a healthier life through the right choices of foodto limit to lesser consumption of sugar, salts and fats and to change theirsedentary lifestyle to become an active one through engaging actively inphysical activity. An article in the NY Times, titled “In Asia’s fattestcountry, nutritionist take money from food giants”. I quote: Dr Tee E Siong,Malaysia’s leading nutrition expert, decided to act, organizing a far-reachingstudy of local diets and lifestyle habits where he states, “the real problem,isn’t the type of food people eat but how much of it, and their lifestyle.” (3) As for businesses who play a significant rolein the food industry, they can firstly restrict the marketing of foods high insugar and salts and perhaps promote healthier choices to the public.
Secondly,the businesses should ensure that their industry provides the availability ofnutritious and healthy choices for the consumers to afford. Misuse of Resources(Plastics) Consumerism not only impairs thelives of people but the world we live in as well. Through humans keeping upwith our materialistic wants, we are slowly killing the environment. Asconsumerism continues to accelerate climate change in a warming world, we willsee many impacts to the established agricultural system that we have todaysince most of our food is developed under stable climate conditions. The average American throws awayapproximately 185 pounds of plastic per year, 50 percent of the plastic usedjust once before being discarded. Over the last 10 years, more plastics hasbeen produced than in the entire last century and enough is discarded each yearto circle the earth four times. When you walk along any beach oranywhere, there’s no lie that plastic waste is always present through thehuman’s actions of discarding which pollutes lands, beaches and oceans.
Thisbrings to another point of mine where our actions affect the living creaturesaround us as 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed everyyear from the plastics in the oceans. This is supported through an articlewhere according the guardian which titled “A million bottles a minute: world’splastic binge as dangerous as climate change” researched by the EllenMacArthur Foundation which was established in 2010 with the aim of acceleratingthe transition to the circular economy stating that “Between 5m and 13m tonnesof plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by seabirds,fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic byweight than fish”(4). Microplastics are made one of two ways, either they aremanufactured not only as microbeads but even as microfibers that wash out ofsynthetic clothes during laundry or they are created when waves and sunlightbreak down larger plastic pieces. Can you imagine consuming fishesor seafood with them have ingested microplastics which often carry toxiccontaminants and pose a real risk to food security and human health if theyenter our existing human food chain, would you still eat them knowing this?With that said, 93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for theplastic chemical, The United Nations also reports that 3.3 million prematuredeaths per year are from air pollution caused by the production of consumerism.Although the United Nations haveinitiated their #CleanSeas campaign to make people aware of ocean plastics andtake action against it through posters as the one seen. Through this, they makesome countries to take action through the small steps where for example, thecountry Rwanda and Bangladesh have banned all plastic bags and Canada has addedmicrobead to its list of toxic substances. As said by the UN News centre, MrPetter Malvik, UN Environment Programme’s Communications Officer state that”The Clean Seas campaign has already achieved important wins for our oceans,but the job is far from done.
By 2022, we aim to achieve a global ban onmicrobeads in personal care and cosmetic products and a drastic reduction inthe production and use of single-use plastic,”. (5) (Cleanseas.org, 2018) (6) Moving on to the fact thatplastics are being discarded where a small percentage of the plastics are beingrecycled and combusted to create electricity or heat, the rest of the plastics ends up in landfills where it may take up to500 years to decompose, and potentially leak pollutants into the soil and water.With the fact that environmentalist has long denounced that plastics are along-lasting pollutant that does not fully break down where in other words, notbiodegradable. With that said, the plastics on landfills are just a waste oflands which could be used to create something more useful.
Conclusion There is no running fromconsumerism for us human beings as it is everywhere, from the advertisements wesee on the television and computers to the usage of disposables cutlery and Styrofoamthat carries our lunch on a daily basis. But there’s still a solution to changethe consumerist society we are today where the first step is to know what youreally need to own less and through thoughtful consuming, it will make us moreaware and rational with the usage of the resources we have. The first stepswill always be hard but once we get into the habit of doing so, this will helpto improve your overall health and mentality when it comes to the world ofconsumerism. And if you still doubt that one small human being can impact theworld through actions, it still is a step and difference towards a more anticonsumerist world.