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We are what we consume

We are what we consume

If we knew the process of making what we consume, we would verify that most of the products have raw materials extracted in Africa or Latin America.

That in many cases, apart from the environmental impact of these production chains, the raw materials later travel to a Southeast Asian country to be processed by a labor force so cheap that it can be defined as slavery. And that, finally, the product, well packaged and with an exorbitant cost of fuel, reaches the country of final consumption.

This is the scheme behind our overconsumption habits, which imply a delocalization of production and unpayable tolls in labor exploitation and pollution. Asking who and how what we bought was made and how it came to our hands is the first step in fighting against what Carl Marx defined as merchandise fetishization, which means behaving responsibly in the face of the consumer impulse of preferences and brands that we surrounds. We live in the continuous contradiction of having finite natural resources within a wasteful system that needs infinite economic growth to survive, and that is unsustainable no matter how much nature has a great capacity for recovery.

Ecologists have summarized the process of reducing consumption and caring for the environment in the three R's: reduce, reuse and recycle, in that order, because recycling packaging is useless if we continue to consume compulsively.

There are those who also add two other R's: recover, which implies that many products can be fixed when they break down, and reject, both what we do not need to buy and what they offer us, knowing that it will last a few seconds in the product but will be harmful to the environment for years, such as packaging. And it is that, in consumer matters, everything responds to a strategic plan that is fulfilled to the millimeter and whose sole purpose is money.

Any situation has its definition

For example, the replacement of a product to which we are forced, either because it costs the same to fix it as to acquire a new one, or because it lasts less than it should and is rendered useless, responds to the terms of planned obsolescence. Why did an appliance last 20 years or more…?

Well, very simple, products are made, intentionally, to last less than they could and should in order to consume more.

It is then when we return to the beginning: greater expenditure of natural resources, fuel, transport, overexploited labor and, ultimately, an absolute waste if we add the clothes that do not last more than a season - and the ones we buy in discounts without needing it-, electronic devices that break down when the warranty expires, mechanical breakdowns after eight years of having a vehicle that seriously consider replacing it with a new one, food products that we let expire or that we throw away due to their bad condition appearance…

A vicious circle that we can also apply to food and ask ourselves how it is possible that with more than 900 million hungry people in the world, according to FAO, 1,300 million tons of food can be wasted per year, which is around 135 kilos per person; or how it is possible that the oceans have become the largest garbage dumps ...

They are questions without a clear answer and that not only drown the seas, but also suffocate countries and, above all, condemn their populations for not being able to confront consumerism.

The limit to humanize our consumption will be where we each put it, but a first step to be able to change attitudes and think more about others and less about what we would like to have passes through information, that good so precious by power as it is manipulable , and that it would clarify many aspects of production beyond labeling and product characteristics.

In our hands, therefore, is responsible consumption and the future of natural resources.Ecoportal.net

By Alberto Lopez Herrero


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