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Mass consumption promotes progress even though it isn’t good for the environment

Welcome to America. Here, mass consumption is a way of life for almost all of us. It keeps us supplied with stuff we don’t need, and it keeps our economy going. We like to eat massive quantities of food and spend large sums of money on stuff we don’t need. It keeps us on top of everyone else. Going out and supporting the economy by consuming and buying goods is an enjoyable way of life for many an American. It’s fun to buy lots of stuff and eat too much. I do it all the time. Most Americans do. But as much flak as the topic of mass consumption gets for being destructive to the environment and harsh on our reserves of natural resources, this very earth-destroying activity is what makes our lives so livable. Here in America, the home of many increasingly globalized multinational companies, we consume a majority of the world’s natural resources. These companies allow and mandate us to do so. With only seven percent of the world’s population, we consume 25 percent of all processed oil. We play host to companies which employ slash and burn techniques to clear large swatches of South American rainforest to make way for room to raise cattle for cheap beef. We have massive big-box corporations which bully goods suppliers into providing them with large amounts of shelf-ready goods at rock bottom prices. This allows us to go out and buy things for astoundingly cheap prices. We also wage wars of conquest to isolate and lock down regions with plentiful natural resources, setting up base in order to harvest materials to feed our nation’s hungry economic machine. At first, these actions seem horrible and inhuman. Mass use of fossil fuels, intentional deforestation for destructive agricultural purposes, ubiquitous large scale big-box retail chains and for-profit warring seem like abominable activities which should be stopped. However, we in the U.S. reap an unfathomable amount of benefits from exploiting everything and everyone else. I can walk less than 100 meters from my room and buy mass quantities of assorted food products of all shapes, sizes and flavors. I can buy a colossal gas-guzzling SUV which emits as much carbon dioxide in a year as a third-world nation does in five, but I don’t have to worry about those emissions. I can purchase inexpensive sweatshop-manufactured clothing at a huge retail outlet for a fraction of the price I would pay anywhere else. Ever since World War II, American culture in general has been defined by the capacity for us, as a people, to consume and purchase goods. The clothes we wear, the foods we eat, the cars we drive, the places we buy from and the brands we trust are all results of America’s rise to the top over the past 60 years, clear indicators the American economy is a mighty giant with ravenous hunger. And the hunger is infectious. It’s been spreading to the consumer public for the past half century. The reason America stands today as world superpower is because over the years, its populace has been raised to believe mass consumption is the best way to keep America on top and keep its citizens satisfied in the short-term. The more people who consume and demand goods, the more jobs must be made to meet those demands for goods. Mass consumption has been a driving force in American economic progression for the latter half of the 20th century. The effects of mass consumption are detrimental to the environment; they ransack reserves of natural resources, and they promote the growth of huge, manipulative companies which ignore human rights in order to make profit. Progress occurs. The very thing we like to blame for killing the planet is the very reason we are able to buy $99 MP3 players, cheap hamburgers, HDTVs, criminally low-priced clothes and almost everything else you can get in America cheaper than anywhere else. Mass consumption in the U.S. drives human progress at the expense of the environment and the rights of human beings everywhere else. American citizens’ lives are defined by what brands they prefer to use and which goods they choose to consume. It seems bad, but it isn’t all so. When you’re born into a mass consumption culture which bombards you with what you must buy in order to be happy, how can you be sure whether it will make you happy after all? Consumption doesn’t always make people happy, but it does promote progress, allowing new things to be made so more people can be convinced they need those things to be happy. Would you have it any other way? I’m still trying to figure that out for myself.

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