In the world where everything is
accessible, the world has failed to realize that the human race will lead us
all to the destruction of the earth. People have always had basic needs such as
food, and shelter. But as society grew wealthier, their appetites changed. They
became interested in acquiring things for reasons other than survival. This
results in the consumption where humans have made consuming a necessity in
their action of outstripping resources available to meet the needs of the
world’s demand. Consumerism is phenomenon that was always inherent in the
relatively developed societies, where people purchased goods and consumed
resources to the extreme of their needs. This essay will talk about the effects
of consumerism towards obesity and the misuse of resources (plastics) on the
world.

 

Obesity

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In the current modern world where
increasingly cheap and high-calorie food is being prepared in large amounts of
ingredients like salt and sugar with the addition of the increasingly sedentary
lifestyles as well as increasing of urbanization, there is no doubt that
obesity has increased rapidly in the last few decades around the globe.

 

 I want to talk about the statistic of the
world obesity where according to the World Health Organization, “Worldwide
obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 wherein 2016” and “more than 1.9 billion
adults, 18 years and older, were overweight and out of these numbers, over 650
million were obese” (1). Obesity itself does not only affects the adults but
children as well as according to World Health Organization, “In 2016, an estimated
41 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight or obese. Once
considered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the
rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. In
Africa, the number of overweight children under 5 has increased by nearly 50
per cent since 2000. Nearly half of the children under 5 who were overweight or
obese in 2016 lived in Asia.” (1).

 

This issue impairs the lives of
the consumers in terms of health. The global health problem of obesity lies in
the constant need of one to eat luxuriously rather than eat only what they
need. Consumerism can also be blamed for other social ills where the heavy
advertising of delicious but unhealthy foods, such as sweets, and fast food has
caused a significant rise in diet-related health problems. In the 1990s, for
the first time in human history, the world’s population of overweight people
was 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 of
the joints in one’s body). According to an article in the guardian titled
“Being overweight – not just obese – kills millions a year, say experts” where
based on a a team of 2,300 experts led by the Institute for Health Metrics and
Evaluation (IMHE), based at the University of Washington in Seattle. They study
concludes that “In 2015, nearly four million people died from disease related
to their weight, most commonly from heart disease. But only 60% were
technically obese, which is defined as a body mass index over 30. The other
40%, 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 to
start making the choice of a healthier life through the right choices of food
to limit to lesser consumption of sugar, salts and fats and to change their
sedentary lifestyle to become an active one through engaging actively in
physical activity. An article in the NY Times, titled “In Asia’s fattest
country, nutritionist take money from food giants”. I quote: Dr Tee E Siong,
Malaysia’s leading nutrition expert, decided to act, organizing a far-reaching
study 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 role
in the food industry, they can firstly restrict the marketing of foods high in
sugar and salts and perhaps promote healthier choices to the public. Secondly,
the businesses should ensure that their industry provides the availability of
nutritious and healthy choices for the consumers to afford.

 

Misuse of Resources
(Plastics)

 

Consumerism not only impairs the
lives of people but the world we live in as well. Through humans keeping up
with our materialistic wants, we are slowly killing the environment. As
consumerism continues to accelerate climate change in a warming world, we will
see many impacts to the established agricultural system that we have today
since most of our food is developed under stable climate conditions.

 

The average American throws away
approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year, 50 percent of the plastic used
just once before being discarded. Over the last 10 years, more plastics has
been produced than in the entire last century and enough is discarded each year
to circle the earth four times.

 

When you walk along any beach or
anywhere, there’s no lie that plastic waste is always present through the
human’s actions of discarding which pollutes lands, beaches and oceans. This
brings to another point of mine where our actions affect the living creatures
around us as 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed every
year from the plastics in the oceans. This is supported through an article
where according the guardian which titled “A million bottles a minute: world’s
plastic binge as dangerous as climate change” researched by the Ellen
MacArthur Foundation which was established in 2010 with the aim of accelerating
the transition to the circular economy stating that “Between 5m and 13m tonnes
of 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 by
weight than fish”(4). Microplastics are made one of two ways, either they are
manufactured not only as microbeads but even as microfibers that wash out of
synthetic clothes during laundry or they are created when waves and sunlight
break down larger plastic pieces.

 

Can you imagine consuming fishes
or seafood with them have ingested microplastics which often carry toxic
contaminants and pose a real risk to food security and human health if they
enter 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 the
plastic chemical, The United Nations also reports that 3.3 million premature
deaths per year are from air pollution caused by the production of consumerism.

Although the United Nations have
initiated their #CleanSeas campaign to make people aware of ocean plastics and
take action against it through posters as the one seen. Through this, they make
some countries to take action through the small steps where for example, the
country Rwanda and Bangladesh have banned all plastic bags and Canada has added
microbead to its list of toxic substances. As said by the UN News centre, Mr
Petter 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 on
microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products and a drastic reduction in
the production and use of single-use plastic,”. (5)

 

(Cleanseas.org, 2018) (6)

 

Moving on to the fact that
plastics are being discarded where a small percentage of the plastics are being
recycled and combusted to create electricity or heat, the rest of the plastics ends up in landfills where it may take up to
500 years to decompose, and potentially leak pollutants into the soil and water.
With the fact that environmentalist has long denounced that plastics are a
long-lasting pollutant that does not fully break down where in other words, not
biodegradable. With that said, the plastics on landfills are just a waste of
lands which could be used to create something more useful.

 

Conclusion

 

There is no running from
consumerism for us human beings as it is everywhere, from the advertisements we
see on the television and computers to the usage of disposables cutlery and Styrofoam
that carries our lunch on a daily basis. But there’s still a solution to change
the consumerist society we are today where the first step is to know what you
really need to own less and through thoughtful consuming, it will make us more
aware and rational with the usage of the resources we have. The first steps
will always be hard but once we get into the habit of doing so, this will help
to improve your overall health and mentality when it comes to the world of
consumerism. And if you still doubt that one small human being can impact the
world through actions, it still is a step and difference towards a more anti
consumerist world.

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