Relevant consumption

Juliet Schor believes our most serious problem is the impact of consumer activity on the planetary ecology.

Our consumption is a key cause of global warming as well as species extinction, ecosystem degradation and toxic chemical poisoning.

Relevant consumption includes vehicles, which are a salient example, especially with the shift to sport utility vehicles and the decline in average fleet mileage in the US.

The tremendous growth in housing size is also important. Residential energy use is now rising in the US after decades of decline. We are building more energy-efficient houses, but that has been more than compensated for by much bigger houses with many more appliances, such as jacuzzis and steam showers and extra freezers and the proliferation of consumer electronics.

Air travel is another very, very carbon-intensive activity. Meat consumption is also highly environmentally degrading. Shrimp is another good example. We’ve gone from a world in which shrimp was a luxury, eaten by the wealthy and as a special treat by the middle classes. Now there are ‘all you can eat’ shrimp buffets for $7.99.

Shrimp is cheap and the reason is that we have shifted to shrimp cultivation, which is destroying mangroves and coastline ecosystems in many parts of the world and is one of the most environmentally damaging products that we’re consuming right now.

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