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Bob Case

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Today's American society's affluence is unparalleled: with the success of a capitalist economy, America is able to provide the essential needs of the society, and at a quantity more than what all of America needs. Food, clothing, cars, housing, and even home appliances range from the cheap to the expensive, in various sizes, color, and form. All these material needs and wants are available to every American, and we sure take advantage of this. According to Annie Leonard, Americans only make up approximately five percent of the world's population but we consume upwards to thirty percent of the world's resources1. Although I agree that American society is very consumer-oriented due to my past experiences, the current environment that I am living in limits my consumption level.

Duly noted, we are not looking at consumption in general but at overconsumption and consumerism. As said by Leonard, "while consumption means acquiring and using goods and series to meets one's needs, consumerism is the particular relationship to consumption in which we seek to meet our emotional and social needs through shopping, and we define and demonstrate our self-worth through the stuff we own. Overconsumption is when we take far more resources than we need." A fundamental effect of over-consumption is a reduction in the planet's carrying capacity. Excessive unsustainable consumption will exceed the long term carrying capacity of its environment and subsequent resource depletion, environmental degradation and reduced ecological health. In 2002, the average American acquired fifty-two additional pieces of clothing, while the average household was throwing away 1.3 pounds of textiles every week2. Unfortunately, we have come to these astonishing statistics due to the emergence of capitalism, technological advancement, and the modernization of North America. As you can see, we need to address the problem of overconsumption so we can have a more sustainable planet.



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