The importance of our purchasing power
Who has not changed television, cell phone, or computer in recent years? Who does not want and buys, if they can, the most up-to-date version of the device or appliance they already use?
We are taught, encouraged, and sold the grace to accumulate things to make life more pleasant. Convenience has gone from being a custom to being our way of achieving happiness—even if it is illusory. It is our vice and our prize.
For the world, this excessive way of living has awakened us to a new reality. That everything ends. If we become a collective of 9,600 million human beings by 2050, we would require the equivalent of almost three planets to provide the precious natural resources, as we use them now.
Our material footprint intensifies as we buy, use, and throw away. From 2000 to 2007, the global level of our material footprint soared 70 percent. We are the ones who every minute consume one million drinks in plastic bottles and throw these away. We are the ones who use five trillion bags every year, for single-use. If we divide the pile of junk that we generate with all the things related to the technology that we buy, we can assign 7.3 kilograms of electronic waste to each person. Only 1.7% of these kilograms are recycled.
An analysis of the cost of carbon mortality generated some pretty accurate headlines this past July: “Three Americans Generate Enough Carbon Emissions to Kill One Person, Study Finds.” This is how it was synthesized by the English newspaper The Guardian. It is not for lack of information that we suffer. All these statistics are at our fingertips. There is too much information and we have become desensitized. But climate change does not discriminate and at some point we have to become aware of the part we play in this dilemma.
The United Nations took responsibility for correcting the problem of derailed production and consumption. By 2030, the UN has committed to implementing a Framework of Programs on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. Halving global per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level and reducing food losses in production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses, is also one of its goals.
The corporations that govern consumption patterns know backwards and forwards that mounting climate disasters are leaving us without a world and the magical dream of convenience is being shattered.
And we consumers still buy without knowing for sure what resources we are using, how we impact a market, the lives in a region, or a wilderness area, when we buy something, especially when it is not made locally.
It is time for the consumer to take responsibility as a smoker does when they buy a pack of cigarettes and read that these cause cancer. There are already those displaced by climate change, the dead, the missing species and more than 1.2 billion people vulnerable to the climate in 48 nations in the world. The Caribbean region of Latin America is at risk, for example, as are all coastal areas.
While we arrive at a collective change of consciousness, through ups and downs, I hope the UN will hold the most influential corporations accountable for guaranteeing a change in production and consumption patterns so that they are sustainable.
We consumers have a great task. Know where the things we buy come from? How are they made? What are the policies of the companies that manufacture them? What happened to the river next to the manufacturer where they dumped all that blue chemical? Why do the girls who work there have discolored or swollen hands? And how many villages were displaced by the floods after the dam that was built for the factory broke? Elsewhere the avocado market is causing people to be killed. What are the reasons? Are these the same avocados that I buy?
The more questions we ask ourselves, the more likely we are to find solutions. It is not for mere accumulation of knowledge. It is to help us make decisions with our purchasing power in a way that our voices can be heard.