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The late 20th century to date has witnessed a significant rise in consumer purchase power and ability. Most individuals spend so much on material things and forget the basic requirements of life. For instance, people around the world spend approximately 35 trillion dollars on goods and services, that is, on basic expenditure like food, shelter and clothing and even more on consumer goods like expensive cars and foods, state of the art computers and cell phones, and services such as leisure education, travel and healthcare. Consumption has greatly increased over the last five decades and consumption per person has actually tripled.
Our spending rates are not only attributed to increased income but also on factors like material satisfaction as well as factors such as robust advertisements and marketing. Those with strong materialistic needs and values tend to spend more and in some cases beyond their financial capabilities. Research indicates that when people strive to achieve extrinsic goals like product acquisition, they end up having greater unhappiness in relationships, bad moods and other psychological problems. Intrinsic goals like personal growth, and connection with the society gives more satisfaction than the intrinsic goals which focus on image, possessions, status and receiving praise.
Apart from the psychological effects of consumerism, the current consumer patterns of over spending also have a great impact on the environment and our natural intelligence. Greater consumer needs that can be attributed to lifestyle changes and intensive media advertisement mean greater production and supply. Most of the goods we consume directly and indirectly are resources obtained from the earth. The more we consume the more these resources are depleted. As consumption increases, more minerals, metals, and fossil fuels have been extracted from the earth. Similarly more trees have been cut down and more land used to grow food. Consumerism has put so much pressure on the land that there needs to be a culture shift to achieve sustainability.
Consumerism therefore has effects on humans both psychological and environmental. The change of this culture lies upon us and the experts. Experts for instance should help come up with better consumer programs like focus on green technology to help combat the ecological crisis. Media and individuals should also focus on issues that help in individual and community growth such as poverty eradication, disaster preparedness and literacy.