The Pandemic of Consumerism

The Pandemic of ConsumerismSPECIAL CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE "To Protect Succeeding Generations"

Periods of global warming are not in and of themselves a human invention. But humans have invented ways of turning a natural cycle into an abnormality whose severity can exceed the tragedy of one atomic bomb or even of several atomic bombs. However, we cannot see the explosion because we live in it, because it seems to be an evident freak of nature to which we must all resign ourselves.

The world’s governments are too busy trying to save humanity from the “great crisis” —the economic crisis— by stimulating the same consumption that is leading us to unmitigated disaster. If the level of global destruction has not yet reached the dreaded status of full-blown catastrophe, it is only because consumerism has not yet reached its supposedly desired levels.

In this collective delusion, development is confused with consumerism, wastefulness with success, and growth with fattening. The pandemic is considered a sign of good health. Its “success” has been so overwhelming that there is no ideology or political system in the world that is not bent upon reproducing and multiplying it.

New technologies could help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but it is unlikely that this would be sufficient in a world that is just at the beginning of its capacity to consume, to squander, and to destroy. Trying to reduce environmental pollution without reducing consumerism is like combatting drug trafficking without reducing the drug addiction.

Wasteful and irrational consumerism has no limits; it has not prevented the death of millions of children from hunger, but it has endangered the existence of the entire biosphere. If “successful” consumerism is not replaced by the forgotten values of austerity, soon we will choose between war and misery, hunger and epidemics.

It is in hands of governments and in hands of each of us either to organize the salvation or accelerate the destruction of our own world. The Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is a new opportunity to prevent the greatest calamity humanity has ever faced. Let us not have another opportunity missed, because we certainly do not have all the time in the world.

Jorge Majfud

August 2009

Lincoln University

UN Chronicle >>

UN Chronicle Review. Special Climate Change Issue.

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