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Mass Consumption and Resource Depletion

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Before evaluating consumerism and its fatal consequences to the environment, it is important to mention the profit-oriented capitalist system. As buying and selling goods and services is the driving force behind consumer culture, the system requires highly workaholic labourers, technocrats, and a plethora of obsessive customers for their success. Obviously, this comes with huge costs like rising income disparity and poverty, poor mental health, and an unsustainable planet. 

The Consumer Class 

Consumerism is the usage of goods and services in an excessive manner, stimulated by changing trends, technologies, and as a status symbol. It’s a habit of buying things that are not the basic necessities for living. A close observation of statistics of consumerism shows that a shocking amount of 60-80% of GHG emissions is caused by household consumption alone. The research on the rise of a “consumer class” indicates that 1.7 billion people are swallowed up by consumer culture and more detailed data shows that about 240 million people in China and 120 million people in India are categorized as consumer class.

This overwhelming increase in expenditure by exploiting the natural system is detrimental not only to the environment but also to the poor people by worsening the disparity based on wealth, pushing the poor further into poverty and misery. The reason behind giving more stress on poverty or income disparity is that provisions for basic income could bring a considerable change in the purchasing pattern, thereby more people would be able to move towards sustainable consumption.

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Extraction And Exploitation 

The tremendous increase in production and consumption after the industrial revolution leads to a drastic increase in the use of energy by exasperating the limited resources of ecology. The core issue with human beings is that we tend to maximize profit by prioritizing the economy and denying it’s adverse consequences on the environment. The economy is boosted by high profit through the increase in consumption which is possible by growth in production. For production, the industries over-extract and exploit the natural resources like wood, water, ore, fossil fuels without considering the certainty of resource depletion. In the long run, these actions will have negative outcomes that result in more severe environmental issues than the earth currently suffering from, this includes intense heat, drought, flood, water depletion, and other natural and man-made disasters.

Fast Fashion And Food Industry 

The fashion industry and the fast-food industry are major players in polluting our planet, these industries have high production and consumption. The fashion industry requires mass production to stay relevant in the ever-changing market and inexpensive clothing and other fashion products have sociological and environmental hazards. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world and they create about 10% of total carbon emissions through the over usage of fossil fuels.

There are other high environmental costs to pay for cheap clothing due to the use of non-degradable prudent materials like polyester and the huge amount of clothes that are wasted every year. On the other hand, the processed food industry with mass production of meats causes immeasurable negative effects on the environment. According to the United Nations report, farming creates 15% of GHG emissions and already produces one and a half times more food than we actually needed, leading to mass food wastage, consequently erosion of energy and resources.

Almost 40% of the cultivable land in the world is now used for animal farming, this mishandling of lands and overconsumption of meat has considerable health issues and is the major threat to the limited natural resources, especially water.

In the UK alone millions of tons of food go wasted every year, needless to say about the over-usage plastic by the food industry. So, the fashion and fast food industries have a significant role in climate change by burning fossil fuels, deforestation, or land clearing for farming and through our use and throw culture. More or less, we all contribute to this process by being part of the consumer culture and we are supposed to be more careful about the things we purchase because our preferences have substantial outcomes. 

Other Goods And Services Industries

Agriculture and transportation are other major goods and services industries that are highly expended and are major contributors to  Green-House Gas and Carbon Dioxide emissions. The agriculture industry is generating a total of 13-18% of GHG emissions and the transportation industry is generating about 24% of global CO2 emissions. Not to mention the construction and technology enterprises which contribute a rising share to the total pollution across the globe.

The over-usage of plastic and used electronic manufactures dumped in the oceans and sent to the poor countries from the rich, throw away culture, growing population, misuse of cultivable lands, deforestation, and extraction of natural resources are all directly connected to unsustainable consumerism.

Like the saying, better late than never, there are still a lot of decisions and actions we can take to reverse climate change and overconsumption. The industries should use renewable energy sources and manufacture sustainable products and also become effective in reducing the number of products going to the garbage.

As individuals, we can take up veganism or cut short meat intake, and use sustainable products like reusable shopping bags, taking public transport and eating locally produced organic foods and putting a full stop to throw away culture and through campaigns and awareness. Ultimately, by acknowledging the fact that each and every choice we make will have an impact on the environment. 

About the author: Nivya Jayan is A passionate writer and a graduate in Economics from St. Joseph’s College, Devagiri. Former college union joint secretary who is interested in politics and diplomacy. Love writing, learning new languages and most importantly reading.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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