Consumerism – whose fault is it anyway?

It was with great sadness I read the news yesterday from the International Panel on Climate Change about how little time there is to prevent a global warming catastrophe. I read the recommendations which all centred around what we as individuals should be doing eg. eating less meat, walking instead of taking the car and basically consuming less. These all sound like reasonable things and to some extent do-able BUT after many years in public health and marketing I am hopping mad! Yet again the individual is blamed for their behaviour and over consuming but no blame is laid at the door of the huge money grabbing multinationals that have aggressively marketed to us and used a wide variety of tactics to change public policy and our environments.

In the 1940s it started to become clear that tobacco smoking was bad for you and perhaps caused lung cancer. By the 1960s it was irrefutable, unless you worked for the tobacco industry of course! Nowadays tobacco smoking rates are reducing however tobacco companies are still making large profits from other poorer countries around the world. They aren’t contributing to the healthcare budgets or compensating people for selling them a deadly addictive carcinogen – we (the general public) are picking up the pieces. The same is happening with the food industry and politicians stand by and blame parents or individuals for their unhealthy “choices”. There are no penalties for selling sugary drinks to schoolchildren for breakfast.

As city dwellers we receive about 5000 messages per day through all different channels.¬† 85% of us have Smartphones with people checking their phones on average every 12 minutes. The so called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple feed us image after image of the next thing we can’t live without or pictures of what your life should look like.

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We like to think we are immune to marketing but sadly we are not – the new age of marketing is hypertargeting where advertisements are pinpointed directly to what interests we have or based on our previous buying habits. It is almost impossible to escape unless you decide to have no email address, mobile phone and don’t go on the internet. The Four Horsemen are making lots and lots of money from our so called “choices” and can not be allowed to dodge any responsibility of this mass consumerism that is taking over the world and threatening our existence.

You may not agree and you may feel we have more choice about our decisions but I have found that even with an elevated awareness of choice I am still being caught. Since our year began I have been doing a lot of reading and browsing about sustainability issues. Lo and behold all the advertising I am seeing are pictures of green leaves on products that supposedly save our planet.

I feel as individuals we have our part to play and as we get more conscious of the consequence of our choices we need to take responsibility however do not let those multinationals whose only (I repeat) ONLY desire is to make money and they will not take responsibility unless we make them.

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The Illusion of Choice – study this!

 

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