Nepal | October 30, 2020

Toxic consumerism


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We live in a world where a dead tree is worth more than its living counterpart. Ever since I heard this anecdote somewhere, it got me thinking.

You could replace the protagonist here, and retell the story with some of the more animated, emotional characters like the whales, pangolins and rhinos, the story remains similar.

The fact is, after lots of hits and trials on how we should live in ‘our’ planet, whilst mostly disregarding any species that isn’t Homo sapiens, we have settled upon a world order defined largely by the ethos of capitalism. Money rules.

Okay, but how much is too much? What is the limit to materialism? Probably only your budget. Consumerism is the lifeline of capitalism, and the big corporations chant ‘consume, consume and consume’- via some hundreds of ads we come across every single day.

The problem is, 4 billion people were consuming the finite resources, and 50 years later the number has skyrocketed to 8 billion. The ramifications are concrete, as the planet is warming up, ice caps are melting down, corals are dwindling, typhoons are brewing, floods are intensifying and pandemics are threatening to become the new normal. Just to mention a grim example of how the ecosystem has been so lopsided, there are now 1 billion livestock to some 3,000 tigers. Toxic capitalism favours only those who can yield a profit.

It’s high time that we begin chanting ‘sustainability, sustainability and sustainability’ instead. I’m no economist but even I know that this trend of consumerism needs a major reshuffle before it’s too late.

So rather than waiting for the governments and big corporations with their tinted glasses to wake up and start taking meaningful actions, we could start somewhere. For instance, why not sustainable clothing? Like other material goods, it’s fair to say that we spend too much on clothing. It’s estimated that one shirt when dyed, six liters of byproduct poisonous chemicals end up in the oceans. So, making it socially acceptable for everyone to wear pieces of clothing to its full value, with minor wears and tears being celebrated rather than frowned upon in exchange for less toxins being dumped into the oceans, seems like a more than fair, even moral trade.

Personally, I have pledged to not buy a single piece of clothing this year and make do with whatever I already possess. There is a long way to go but if history is anything to go by, humans have learned from their mistakes and adapted for the better every time.

Only this time, the stakes are much higher.

A version of this article appears in print on October 15, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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