Consumerism, Computers and the Internet

An excerpt from the Passionate Earth: The Evolution of Our Relationship with the Natural World by John Del Signore. I will be posting new articles to this site on a regular basis.

Before the advent of the Internet, the acquisition of most material goods and services was done more at a local level, usually close to home and often with people one was familiar with. Goods and services that were more specialized were ordered or were procured by traveling to the places where they were available.

Today, this scenario has changed dramatically. The Internet and the sophistication of the computer and other devices that utilize the Internet have given us a new way to access what we need that is easy, quick, and can be done from the comfort of our homes or anyplace we happen to be. We also have access to an almost limitless variety of services and goods that spans all seven continents and countries. What we have today is a global market and a global consumerism. The positive result of this new technology is that we can literally have anything we want that has been produced in the world and it can be shipped to our homes in a relatively short period of time. We also have access to more creature comforts and recreational items than ever and this has produced a more enjoyable lifestyle.

The down side of this development is that shopping, being so easy and accessible, encourages a significant increase in consumerism that includes buying necessities as well as impulse buying. This in turn, promotes an increase in the manufacture of goods and the development of services that tax the planet’s natural resources beyond a state of sustainability. We are using the planets resources at such an accelerated rate, that we are now at 20% to 30% or better overshoot and will be soon depleting many of the natural resources we need to run our modern societies. Fossil fuels are a prime example of this problem and growing enough food to feed our increasing populations will also be an arduous challenge.

We need to ask ourselves what do we really need to function adequately while respecting the needs of our environment. What things could we do without and how much variety of products and services do we really need? We also need to look at the distinction between what we need and what we want and how to negotiate between the two.

The Internet also encourages spending lots of time browsing, playing video games, watching video clips, chatting, E-mailing and texting that takes away from time we could be spending on our psychological, social, and spiritual needs.

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