Our Consumption Success

One thing the human development trajectory will be remembered for is its ever increasing and voracious need to consume: to use, accumulate, and dispose of more and more ‘things’, faster and faster, in pursuit of the prizes of success……

Our consumption of goods and services drives the engine that keeps almost all the economies of the world growing in terms of GDP, wealth, income, expenditure, etc.

One only has to think about the desperate scrambles by governments and business to get us spending again when consumption slumped in the Global Financial Crisis, 11 September 2001 shock, etc.

Depending on which Definition of Success, ‘beacon’, humans choose for their lives, and the path they take to get there, their needs and desires for goods and services can be dramatically different.  Traditional societies, with their totally different beacon of success to modern society:  a very small need for goods and services. Simple needs and desires which tended to remain largely static throughout a human life cycle and even generations.

At the other extreme, the ever increasing consumption of goods and services is a fundamental and significant element in traveling the path to ‘THE Success’ defined by the most developed nations, societies and individuals of the world. In the process, the level of consumption has almost become what defines that Success.

The provision of these goods and services can almost always be traced back to a process to produce that ‘something’:  a process which requires the combination of some level of primary resource, energy, infrastructure, and labour to produce the ‘something’ that the consumer needs and / or desires.  (Whether that be a physical product or not, there is almost always some form of conception / delivery process which requires some input.)

Depending on the intensity of this process of conception / delivery it leaves some form of ecological footprint behind i.e in some shape or form the process consumes some of the planets natural resources and / or it produces waste products. Both make a demand on the planets regenerative systems.

Once the ‘good or service’ comes to being used by the consumers there is invariably a ‘usage response’ that generates another ecological footprint. Once again these waste resources make a demand on the planet’s natural regenerative systems.

It is almost exclusively our huge demand for goods and services, and the demand on nature’s regenerative system, that is responsible for the planet overload to point where we require 1.6 Earths to meet this demand.

Human innovation has been impressive in its creativity and innovation in reducing process footprints, by improving efficiency, replacing inputs, and transforming our needs for goods and services. However the fact that the demand for more and more Earths just continues on the same upward trajectory, surely points to something fundamentally wrong with our human Definition of Success.

With the combination of the developed world’s Definition of  Success,  it’s dependency on ever increasing consumption, and our ever increasing crowd, the shock that we are demanding 1.6 planets and this is increasing should not be a surprise to the architects.

To quote Ernst Friedrich “Fritz” Schumacher, internationally influential, 20th century economic thinker, statistician and economist:

It does not require more than a simple act of insight to realise that infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.

It is strange that as insightful, brilliant, and innovative that we humans are, we still can’t see that our definition of Success is directly conflicting with this impossibility. Or maybe we can, but the will to change direction is not within global leaderships’ vision and interests. One Point Zero aims to try and awaken us all to the insight of impossibility, and to unite us to effect change to the possible of a finite world Success.