Unsustainable consumer behaviour: A cause to environmental cataclysm

November 8, 2017

The environment is an integral part of the lives of every living being on Earth, where we dwell upon the consumables provided by our planet. The term "consumerism" is used in several ways. In economics, it usually refers to a movement promoting the rights and safety of the consumer that arose in the early 1900s as people grew increasingly concerned about consumer safety and the toll taken on factory workers by manufacturing methods. Consumerism is the way one prioritizes one's material possession and when one consumes more than what they need. The behavior is actually blurring the difference between wants and needs. It is very important that one looks into the consumeristic behavior as of what is the impact created by the consumer. It is very important to see that how over-consumption can lead to depletion of these natural resources unless alternative sources are used. One’s decisions make count in the effort of sustainability of our environment. The modern economy thrives on the production and consumption of goods and services. The Higher amount of consumption will lead to the higher amount of production which requires a larger amount of energy and materials that lead to the release of a larger amount of waste products which in turn affects the environment. Increasing in extraction and exploitation of natural resources leads to accumulation of waste and increase in the concentration of pollutants which damages the environment and in the long run affects the economic activity.

Source: Waterfootprint.org, FAO, UNESCO, UNFPA

  • Environmental degradation -  As consumption of goods and its effect on the environment is a complete chain which creates a huge impact and creation of rising in the environmental evil of India. India is a country comprising of, the second highest populated country in the world and their are fewer resources to feed more mouth. Extraction of minerals is one of the examples of environmental degradation. 

  • Water Footprint–Tripura, an industrial town in Tamil Nadu heavily engaged in the hosiery industry is facing a water crisis due to the contamination of the groundwater sources. Its dyeing and bleaching industry uses more than 90mn Litre of water a day and then discharges the same amount as effluents, mostly untreated, into the Noyyal River. The groundwater within an estimate of 10 – 12 km of the radius is not potable.

     

The agriculture sector is the largest water user in the country accounting for over 80% of the total water use. In states like Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh over 85% of the irrigation is done through groundwater sources which again contributes a major part to water footprint. Apart from it, there are areas like  Maharashtra, many farmers have switched on water-intensive crops like sugarcane. Excessive pumping of groundwater has also resulted in saline water ingress in coastal areas, affecting the quality of the water resources.

The unorganized usage of water leads to scarcity of water. As in Delhi on an average, a person uses up to 400 l of water every day whereas in nearby Najafgarh it is less than 20 l.

Apart from it, according to the study, about four-fifths of the environmental impact of consumerism comes not from direct behaviors like driving cars or taking long showers, but rather from sources further down our products’ supply chains. The amount of water that goes into a hamburger or frozen pizza is much more than what is consumed on daily wages. For the preparation of one slice of pizza 40 gallons of water is used. Its high time for us to question our consumption and change those which are having a negative impact on the environment.

   

Carbon Footprint –India is considered to be the second highest in terms of its contribution to the carbon footprints. The increase is carbon footprint is the result of unsustainable consumeristic lifestyle which leads to various types of pollution. It is seen that America have 5% of the total world’s population and it consumes 25% of the total natural resources of the world. It can be easily determined that the remaining 95% of the world’s population is dependant upon the rest 75%of the resources available. The footprint measures a number of resources being used for production to support our lifestyle and the amount of waste produced. The choice of food, transportation, housing, types and amounts of energy usage and refuse disposal are some of the factors that determine the size of the footprint. If every person on the planet lived like the average American, we would need the materials from four Piles of the earth to sustain them.

 Source: onlyzerocarbon.org, by Peter Carter

 

  • Wastes – Unplanned garbage disposal is a major cause of pollution in urban settings raising serious public health concerns. Earlier the waste from human settlements was mainly organic and biodegradable (leftover food, vegetables, and fruit peels). Today there is more waste and it mainly comprises of non-biodegradable materials (plastics, fused materials such as tetra packs and pan masala pouches in which more than one material – plastic and paper or paper and aluminum – are combined), toxic substances, etc. These remain in the environment for a long time and can contaminate the air, water, and land. Solid waste disposal is a challenge for urban authorities. New landfill sites are usually far from the city and the transportation of water, in turn, adds to vehicular air pollution.The impact of such pollution on the quality of food crops using the contaminated water for irrigation and on human health.

  • Deforestation – As the consumeristic behavior demands for more production which requires a large area of the setup of industries leads to deforestation of land which in turn leads to an imbalance in the environment. With the ever continuing increase in environmental damage there will come a time where this will reach a point of no return, whereby  the  planet  will no  longer  be  able  to support its own functioning With the ever continuing increase in environmental damage there will come a time where this will reach a point of no return, whereby the planet will no longer be able to support its own functioning. It is expected that by 2025, the planet will no longer be able to cope with the severe ecological damage. This will mainly be caused due to present geological stresses, further increase of global warming, and further destruction of the planet’s ecology which is so needed by the planet to provide support for its overall functioning.

  • Ocean acidification - Since the beginning of industrial revolution, the ocean has absorbed approximately a third of carbon dioxide we have produced. This has caused an increase of 30% in surface ocean acidity. If current carbon dioxide emissions continue at this rate, ocean acidity is expected to increase 100-150%  percent more,relative to the beginning of the industrial revolution. The ocean acidification has shown a negative impact on marine organisms. It becomes difficult for corals and shellfishes.Additionally, marine food webs may experience devastation as small organisms at their base such as calcifying pteropods, experiencing detrimental effects of increasing acidity.The increasing consumeristic pattern has shown an increase in ocean acidification.

  • Jellyfish bloom - Climate change, overfishing, and eutrophication are acting synergically to create environments that are favorable for jellyfish but harmful for other marine organisms. The anthropogenic cause that has led to arise in jellyfish is due to overfishing. All these climate changes taking place due to consumerism are causing blooming of dinoflagellates and jellyfishes today which was similar to the condition seen 550 million years ago.

 

The conditions raise a question to the consumers.Do we consume responsibly? Do we actually need that we buy or not? Is there any alternative environment friendly product or services? What is the cost of disposal and what is the environmental impact of its disposal? Let us think and act responsibly, for also the planet belongs to every earthling and the generations to come.

 

 

REFERENCES 

 

L, Giordano. Environmental Consumerism.  Retrieved from   http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/2010/1/10.01.03.x.html Accesed on 25.09.2017

 

Maurya, S.D. (1989). Urbanization and environment problems. Allahabad. Chugh Publication.

 

Randhawa, M.S.(1986). A history of agriculture in India, Vol. 4. New Delhi. Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

 

Srivastava , Y.N. (1989). Environment pollution. New Delhi. Ashish Publishing House.

 

Author is a Development Professional

 

 

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