Radical Solutions: Consumerism, a panacea for Climate Change?

In the few months leading up to the COP 21 summit of Paris, it is imperative that we discuss Climate Change. Today it is uplifting to know that ‘Climate Change Deniers’ are a dying species. However the cold hard truth is that since 1958, when scientists first confirmed rising CO2 levels, it took the international community more than half a century to bring near universal recognition of this issue. Modern society boasts of accomplished international diplomacy and protection of International Security since the end of WWII.

However, Climate Change is the one global crisis that the international arena seems to have failed in preventing and further global hesitation to act can only be narrowed down to one simple reason; it just isn’t profitable! Money truly makes the world go round. It was money that drove the industrial development at an exponential rate as the industrial revolution initiated causing Climate Change. Thus it is fair to conclude that money can provide the solution to combat the issue of climate change in the Capitalistic Modern Society.

In this article, we lay the foundation for a new capitalistic concept; Climate Friendly Consumerism. Whilst you read this you might be thinking as to whether it is truly that powerful a tool? It truly is. After all, consumerism is also at the very root of causing Climate Change. How? Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late 1700s, manufacturing was often done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. It converted a number of predominantly agrarian, rural societies to the industrial power hungry cities they are today.

The manufacturing in masses caused products to be easily bought without the hassle of making it at home. The use of biological energy of humans and animals was reformed into the massive use of chemical energy stored in fossil fuels. Exponential growth of industries was thus dependent on consumerism and the increased CO2 levels is the consequence of the ever-demanding consumer. Today, effects of consumerism are mind boggling. For a moment just think of yourself. You at the very least is wearing two pieces of clothing, using a fan to increase ventilation and reading this article off a phone, tablet or some sort of electrical device. Can you see the number of products you consume every moment of your day?

Now for just the few products I mentioned above, think of the amount of energy we use to maintain them. The clothing you wear is washed at least thrice a week and the electronic devices you are using are eating up fossil fuel based energy every passing second. Every time you Google your name for the sake of passing time you release 0.2g of carbon into the air.  How many Google searches have you done today? Each photo you upload on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat releases 0.5g of CO2. How many photos have you uploaded recently? Environmentalists blame the power plants but the problem does not lie solely with the energy providers. They only burn the oil when there is a sufficient demand for it. Guess who provides the demand?! You and I. 

The sheer extent of consumerism can revolutionize this world and with the correct guidance to combat climate change without sacrificing a single comfort around you. Consumerism at its core is effective since the power to drive the idea forward is kept with the ordinary consumer. The consumer is absolutely everyone on the planet, which means the power is in masses. The power lies with the 7.6 billion people that live. Why is this good? After confirming rising CO2 levels in 1958 it was not until 1992 that a proper international body was set up to combat this global threat, in short it took two and  half decades to even recognize the existence of this problem. Since 1992 another two and a half decades have passed to no avail. In the meantime we have not been sitting idly by, global leaders have worked to enforce stricter legislature, Emissions Trading Schemes, Cap and Trade Mechanisms as well as Carbon Taxes. Up to date they have reduced emissions but not to the required amount. Why? Simple reason. It is just not profitable. Leaving global leaders to take care of climate change alone has got us nowhere.


Why Consumerism?


Two reasons.

First, Climate Friendly Consumerism only requires global leaders to incentivize the foundation for a Climate Friendly market, after the process is set up global leaders have no role to pay in sustaining that established process, in other words it will be self-sustaining.

Second, consumerism can be directly applied to the capitalistic world we live in. The mechanism can be adopted right now with careful planning and long-term investments. Simply put, the rate of consumption is undoubtedly continuing to increase even as we speak.

So if we substitute the consumed goods to only climate friendly products, we will be reducing the carbon emissions drastically. It is an ultimate adaptation policy that can also bring about mitigation of climate change.  Let us save the one planet we have to survive; after all whilst humans are dependent on the Earth for our survival, the Earth is not dependent on us for its survival!

*Special acknowledgement goes to Mr. Chaminda Serasinghe of Shigadry with Earth Corporation, for introducing this radical solution to the youth of Sri Lanka via SLMUN 2015.

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