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What do you consider to be the tree most significant shortcoming of consumer society? Why? Widespread consumerism has brought with it many changes in the way people think and live. While many of these changes have been beneficial, there has been a trade off. Although for most of its development members of the consumer society have remained ignorant of them, not willing or able to understand many of their implications. Of the many negative aspects of this new way of living, the three I choose to focus on are its drastic environmental effects, its erosion of morals and positive social structures, and its ignorance of the many glaring inequalities in the global community.
The environmental problem I consider to be the most important. All of the others pale in comparison, for if we no longer have a hospitable earth to live on, our cultures and equality are of little matter. The book devotes and entire chapter to covering this topic, but it can be pared down to one basic point: The current levels of consumption in the developed industrial nations of the world are non-sustainable. Also worrisome as the fact that the many developing countries are rushing to follow suit, seeking the American Dream of consumer society. The unrelenting barrage of advertising around the world has fostered and ideal that to be happy one must consume. The products themselves have nearly lost meaning, buried beneath a pile of marketing inspired symbolism.
While the add-men have done a good job at convincing people of what the need (creating want), they have ignored many of the negative results of their actions. The average citizen in the US uses 1. 5 to 7 times more basic materials and ores than the world average, consuming goods and energy at levels only dreamed of by the average person on earth. Economists have already shown that it is impossible for everyone on the planet to reach US consumption levels, simply due to lack of resources. Even at current consumption levels, the environment continues to degrade, with the US leading in greenhouse gas emotions, as well as scores of other types of pollution we are only now beginning to realize to full effects of. Current technologies focus more on the easy way out, the no sustainable way. Recycling has not become widely used because it is more expensive.
Products that are known to be hazardous to the environment are slowly replaced or outlawed when they happen to be the cheapest or most easily available type. The average person in one of the highest consuming countries uses more disposable products; more prepackaged and processed foods, more fossil fuels than anywhere else. With no regard to the long-term effects, the consumer society uses as much as it can and expands as fast as it can. If it is to last for any long period of time, a serious look needs to be taken at different non-destructive, less energy and resource intensive ways of doing things. Although current systems seem to be working fine, the resources and energy relied on may not be so easily available in the future.
The most subtle yet also most pervasive of the three problems is the social one. In a media saturated culture such as in consumer societies, the average person receives more exposure to the medias ideas and values than ever before. This doesnt necessarily have to be a bad thing, however the way in which that exposure is used is the cause of what I consider to be another of the big problems. The medias current major use is to sell products and nothing else. Every large media network revolves around its advertising, with even its programming containing subtle reinforcement of the consumer ethic. The corporations have the minds of the people in their hands, able to convince them of almost anything through a continuous barrage of repetitive advertisement that is often difficult to escape.
The messages they are sending are generally not those of good overall intention, but those merely intended to sell the most products or services to the most viewers. The media and its advertising is so pervasive that few realize that there is anything else but to consume more and more and more, just like they see the happy people on TV doing. The old ways of entertainment have declined noticeably since the introduction of TV and radio as mass medias. People are drawn away from the old formal social structures of religion and hobby, after all it is so easy to just sit at home and watch TV.
The problem with this is that the people then begin to turn to the TV and the messages it brings as a replacement for the social structures and relationships of old. The healthy social environments of the neighborhood and community are eroded, people now content to sit at home and watch TV instead of getting out and being part of their communities. The old leaders, the priests, rabbi, union leaders, even the elderly all have less clout than they used to, the TV has now taken their place as the # 1 authority on everything from how to dress to what to eat to how to ask a girl on a date. The implications of this change are staggering.
The result: An entire society of people becoming more and more reliant on the media to shape their values, morals, and views of the world. And who holds the control of this? Well for the most part someone who is only worried about getting as much money as possible. Not a pleasant thought, considering that there are a lot of problems in the world already, yet the controllers of the media are more concerned about their business and are willing to manipulate their viewers to turn a blind eye to any issues that may threaten them. This also ties into the first problem, as many of these media controllers really dont care much for the environment (it is not profitable to in most cases) and thus try to push their views on this in their programming, helping to convince the people that there really isnt a problem and that everything is ok. The third problem is inequality present in this world.
This issue tends to be the hardest to face and understand due to its difficulty to see from the view of an affluent 1 st world country citizen. The fact that over 1 billion people dont have clean water, or that 4 / 5 of the worlds population only make up ~ 15 % of its economic activity should come as a shock to those that have always lived in the realm of prosperity. In many ways the rest of the world is living in relative poverty, in comparison to what has been attained in the form of quality of life by the 1 st world countries. If we are to ensure prosperity for humanity everywhere, many of these inequalities must be addressed. It has already been established that we are now a global community. Actions of some can have an effect on all; one example is how the poor people of the world are forced to put unnecessary strain on the environment just to survive.
While affluent society has brought with it problems, it has also brought quite sophisticated attempts at solving them. In many poorer 3 rd world countries, the laws and systems for dealing with things such as pollution and false advertising are non-existent or ineffective at best. People in these countries are spurred on to attain the American Dream of the West by international corporate advertisements, yet their governments have not had time to evolve the systems for dealing with many of the side-effects of this behavior. Overall these issues prove to be some of the greatest and most difficult to understand and solve of humanities problems in the 21 st century. Many nations currently have a quality of life only dreamed of by previous generations of inhabitants, but with this come a price. While it may not always be easy to see it for what it is, rest assured that this price is being paid everyday weather we realize it or not, and no amount of propaganda is going to make it go away.
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Research essay sample on Quality Of Life Consumer Society