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Consumption to the point of destruction

Okay, so I’ve spent two posts complaining (first that the “obesity epidemic” in Canada was not really an epidemic, and second, that if it is really an epidemic, it’s downright embarrassing when you put it in perspective to other epidemics around the world) and now I think it is probably time to do something helpful.

Your comments on my post have been particularly insightful and have given me lots of food for thought (pardon the pun!). Many of you, like Ads, agreed that the obesity epidemic, while certainly a problem worth tackling, does need to be put into perspective. Krista, who lives on the African continent and knows first hand the struggles to get basics such as food, water and electricity to her home, noted how North America is undertaking “consumption to the point of destruction.” I cannot agree more wholeheartedly.

And both Krista and Meg rightly pointed out that this kind of overconsumption does affect the rest of the world — from the environment and availability of resources to the “force-feeding” of our junk into third world nations — and so it is important to talk about it and, by extension, try to do something about it.

But when I think about this … which I do a lot …. I can get overwhelmed. Where to start? And can my small actions actually make a difference when the issue is so systemic? Well, we’ve got to start somewhere, right? And where better than in our own homes and with our own buying power.

So I thought I could use this blog to raise and discuss some of this. However, I need your help. I’ve got a couple of ideas brewing for posts, but I want to know what things irk you about our over-consuming nature? Tell me (either in the comments or by emailing me directly) and together we can look at those things and dig a little deeper into them.

As always, thanks for being here and chatting with me. Your coffee pal, Julie


  1. I think that, in large part, our over-consuming nature is from or greatly influenced by three things:

    1) Advertising and broadcast media — As long as I can remember, we’ve been told, directly, indirectly and subliminally, to buy, buy, buy. It’s very, very difficult to resist.
    2) Easy credit — While easy credit can be bad for many reasons, with easy credit it’s easy to buy, buy, buy more than you can afford.
    3) Peer pressurize — From “keeping up with the Jones” to “but everyone else has it,” there is societal pressure to have the newest and the best that we can afford — or get on credit.

    • You what Mike? I think you’ve wrapped it up perfectly. Especially when I think about easy credit … if we physically weren’t able to over-consume, then that sure would solve a lot of issues actually.

  2. I agree with Mike’s post.
    What irks me is mass production for a cheap buck and our “gluttony for punishment.”
    Western society is driven by consumption: housing starts, retail sales, consumer “confidence” and “development.”
    It’s an unhealthy, bloated system of thinking and living.
    However, I think there’s a lot we can do at the grass roots level. And I like the idea of creatively repurposing what we have.

    • Pam, I really like the idea of creatively repurposing too. If you have experienced any successes at this, I’d love to hear about them. Maybe you’d even consider a guest post?

      • Sure Julie. We think waaay outside the box in my household — and there’s no end of possibilities for what happens to the box.

  3. Of course, I would write that the day after we went out and got a new vehicle — but, then again, we generally drive our vehicles into the dirt. The car that was replaced was seven years old with 130,000 miles on it and we didn’t have any plans to replace it. Unfortunately, it was totaled after a recent accident. We replaced it with a later vehicle of the same model — and plan to keep it a long, long time.

  4. instant gratification.

    people are not willing to wait anymore for things. my parents didn’t have nice new furniture or a new car for YEARS. they waited until they could pay for it. my generation won’t wait. they want it NOW. they feel, for some reason, that they DESERVE it. i find it strange.

    you know what really irks me , Julie,and it is kinda on the same wave length……… why does ever kids birthday party have to involve presents? it’s gotten to the point that I don’t want to have too many kids as i am embarassed by all the excess presents. So, you try asking people to please NOT bring gifts, and they still do. Can we not celebrate as a “community” of friends together w/o having to buy anything? i find it bothersome. what do you think? is this part of it??

    • I know what you mean about the presents, Sarah. It’s kind of silly to have to limit the number of invitees because people INSIST on buying something, even when you don’t want it!

  5. p.s. and when i say “that i don’t want to have too many kids”, i mean as my guests at a birthday party! (not as part of my family…when i re-read that, it sounded a bit like i was basing my family size on this issue :)

  6. right now, the food industry is on my mind. i see it as a major factor in this “over consumption to the point of destruction” that we are talking about. how we eat affects the environment, our bodies/health and people all over the world. buying fresh meat and vegetables from a local farmer, or growing your own vegetables are real ways that people can create change in the industry. becoming a vegan or, a smaller step is having your family become vegetarians, a movement that many families are taking part in. a non-fiction book called “animal, vegetable, miracle: a year of food life” by babara kingsolver, is about a family only eating locally grown food for a year. i also recommend the documentary “earthlings” – warning: not easy to watch!

    i only have suggestions about the food industry because i haven’t figured out many ways to combat other ways of over-consuming. i think you can’t underestimate raising awareness. so many people don’t even realize there is a problem. the more people that care about how we live our lives and affect the world – the more change can happen on a larger scale.

    • Meg, I hadn’t heard of the Kingsolver book or the film you mentioned. I will need to borrow the book and see the film when I see you (soon!). They sound really interesting.

  7. Simple steps like reaching for a whole food instead of a box. Forget the organic vs 100 mile diet for a minute. Grab an apple instead of the conveniently packaged single serving organic apple sauce, no matter how appealing the packaging.

    Like you say, it’s a matter of perspective. And since we eat every couple of hours or so, food could be an easy first step for most people. A lot of the rest will follow (although for some, the transition period will take some time).

    I can think of other ideas: instant gratification is so prevalent in our society (like someone above mentioned, easy credit is one example). How about being without? Feel like having a banana but there aren’t any? Instead of heading up to the nearest store, or detouring on the way home from school/work etc, be without the banana. Write it on the grocery list. Everytime you look at that list you will have something to look forward to.

    Do we look forward to anything anymore? In the real sense of the word? I think many of us don’t know how…at the push of a button, at the slide of a credit or debit card, at the convenience of 24 hour open stores within short distances…why wait? We have learned that if we want it, we can get it. Now.

    Make yourself wait a little. Teach those kids that waiting for something, and experiencing that pleasure that comes from waiting and eventually receiving, is worth it. It’s a new phenomenon to many of us. I did that just recently when the 3yo wanted lemonade…I really wanted to cave, head to the store (or my neighbour’s house who assured me she had some), but instead, I put a positive spin on it, suggested we write (or draw) it on the list, and next time we shop, it’ll be her job to remind us to pick up the lemonade.

    Maybe I’m simplifying things a bit…but it’s the simple steps that are the most doable…in my humble opinion.

    Nice post Julie!

  8. I find it an interesting contrast to be reading about this the day after reading about the Starbucks Trenta. Really, do we need more sugary, milky coffee than our stomachs can hold? I was commenting to my co-workers that I remembered when my parents would allow us pizza night – for a family of 5 we had 1 large pizza and 1 750mL bottle of pop. ‘Back in the day’ you would be looked at like you were crazy if you wandered down the street guzzling from one of those large glass bottles of pop. But now? Pick up a one liter single serve and no one bats an eye.

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