The Unseen Impacts of Consumerism

In regards to climate change, we know that a lot of the products we buy and use contribute to the rise of CO2 in our atmosphere. The effects on our atmosphere and wider environment are not reflected in the price of the products; instead the costs are considered ‘externalities’. Externalities include the cost of carbon sequestration, the cost of the acidification of our oceans, the cost of declining health in cities due to poor air quality, the cost of polluted and interrupted ecosystems from garbage dumps and pipeline spills, the cost of desertification, the cost of deforestation, the cost of increased flooding and high intensity storm events… the list goes on. But how can we even put a price on all of these? Clearly, the calculations would be complex, and many would argue quite impossible; after all, these questions eventually boil down to, “How much is a life worth?” and “How much is quality of life worth?”. The reality is, we live in a capitalist world, where many people don’t see the effects of their actions unless they see the negative effect on their wallet…. so although the wider system DOES need to change, a primary step needs to be the inclusion of these ‘externalities’ into the price of goods. This is the general idea behind carbon taxes. I’ve attached a graphic I found in Adbusters that I think speaks to the idea of externalities quite well… after all, is that 5 cent plastic spoon really displaying the cost of its creation AND lifecycle in its price? Can we push for global policy that internalizes climate change related externalities into the price of goods and services?

Spoon

Author: Alex Lavasidis

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