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Responsible Consumption

Responsible Consumption


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By Guillermo Quirós Álvarez

The need to organize the economy according to justice, respect for man and natural resources, is no longer a matter of moral or political opinion, it is an imperative that requires us to do our part. This possibility does not derive from rights guaranteed by law but from the will to live responsibly in everyday life.


The need to organize the economy according to justice, respect for man and natural resources, is no longer a matter of moral or political opinion, it is an imperative that requires us to do our part. This possibility does not derive from rights guaranteed by law but from the will to live responsibly in daily life. The consumer is the last link in the economic system and as such has the responsibility and the power to change the state to which we are induced by the means of social communication.

The manifestations of the social and environmental crisis on the planet are evident: every day we find examples around us or in the media of the unfair distribution of wealth and the increase in poverty or of the effects that the current unsustainable development has for Nature. There are countless examples ranging from migratory phenomena, to deforestation or desertification, through labor exploitation (especially of women and children) or the greenhouse effect.

We live in a society that favors consumerism: we have become the throwaway generation. Advertising bombards us with advertisements whose objective is not our well-being, but to become cogs in a system that reduces people to submissive consumers. This economic model of production and consumption tends more and more to its exhaustion: it is unsustainable.

The institutions have to fulfill their mission and we must demand it, but we have at our disposal means of intervention that can have a direct influence on the centers of economic power. With our way of consuming we can influence the progress of the economy and the world in a direct way. Conscious and responsible consumption, aimed at promoting activities that are satisfactory for nature and people, is a decisive instrument of pressure against the market.

Although the concept of Responsible Consumption is broad, we can understand it in three substantive elements:

1.- Ethical Consumption: is one that asks about the social and ecological conditions in which a product or service has been produced. It is a daily attitude that consists of meticulously choosing what we buy based on two criteria: the history of the product and the conduct of the producing company, pointing out to the system the production methods that we approve and those that we condemn.

It is exercised when the options are valued as more just, supportive or ecological and is consumed in accordance with those values ​​and not only based on personal benefit. From ethical consumption we place special emphasis on austerity as a value, as a conscious way of living, giving more importance to other activities than to consuming and having the ability to distinguish between real and imposed needs; organizing them at a collective level, guaranteeing everyone the satisfaction of their fundamental needs with the least waste.

The incorporation of these values ​​in our consumption does not diminish well-being and quality of life, quite the contrary. Eating meat is a sign of well-being, but it stops being so when many of us find high cholesterol levels, or eat so abundantly that obesity problems are frequent.

This includes all the spheres of our life, our most personal choices and it is an effort, but it is not impossible. A first step would be that awareness in the personal sphere; a second share our reflections to build a collective conscience.

This type of consumption involves two fundamental aspects:

* The search for information and the formation of critical thinking with the reality that surrounds us, with the media and advertising, questioning what is behind each thing we consume and what its consequences are.

* The reduction of our consumption levels as an ethical option. If our development model is not ecological and generates unjust social structures, it is not possible for us to stimulate this situation. It is about changing our habit of consumerism, opting for a model of well-being and happiness not based on the possession of material goods: the one who has the most is not the happiest, but the one who needs the least. It is a change in our scale of values ​​and in our priorities. This would allow us to dedicate a greater part of our budget to eating healthy, enjoying our leisure in a more constructive way, reducing our work time and investing in solidarity and communal work.

Small consumer power can be very effective. We must begin with the choice of our food, our purchases for the house, our clothes, the use of our money, the type of packaging that we accept or reject. What is missing is to develop a critical and supportive conscience accompanied by more collective and political behaviors: when we make the purchase we do not have to doubt that we are powerful and that companies are in a situation of deep dependence on our behaviors as consumers

2.- Ecological Consumption: includes the three R's of the environmental movement: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which also includes essential elements such as ecological agriculture and livestock, among other forms of alternative production.

If we take a look back in time to see how our way of producing and consuming has changed, we will see that the traditional cultures that identified people with their social and ecological environment have been disappearing. The valuable and simple peasant model based on diversified production for self-sufficiency without harming the environment, has been destroyed.


At the beginning of the 20th century, industrial development around the big cities and the abandonment of towns was accentuated, the rural environment becoming increasingly dependent on cities and capital. Human populations are concentrated in large urban centers where the relationship with the physical environment and natural resources is lost. The so-called "green revolution" took place in the 1970s, a concept launched by the World Bank as a guarantee of food security. It is based on mechanization and the use of large quantities of artificial and phytosanitary fertilizers in the agricultural industry. To adapt to these changes, a large investment was needed that small owners could not assume, for which the property structure began to change, concentrating on fewer hands and causing exodus in the countryside and an aging rural population. This phenomenon is accentuated by the policies derived from the inclusion of the States in international financial organizations, which change the regulations on the use of resources and encourage large industrial agricultural and livestock farms that are more profitable in economic terms.

The processes of economic globalization are transforming the socio-economic structure of the rural environment. Production shifts to countries with lower production costs and less protection against environmental crimes. All this is aimed at a production destined more for the market than for people. The producer becomes a dependent client of the agrochemical multinationals (which supply seeds, phytosanitary products, fuel, ...) and a supplier of cheap raw materials for the food industry and large food chains.

A devastating model is being imposed that causes the disappearance of peasant and livestock cultures that are more integrated in the natural environment, depopulation of the countryside, destruction of ecosystems, loss of agricultural and biological diversity, contamination and deterioration of food quality and safety. At the same time, other consumption habits are imposed on us, by increasing the production of few types of food, to the detriment of the traditional production of our diet.

3.- Solidarity Consumption: fair trade is promoted, considering the social relations and working conditions in which a product or service has been produced. It is about paying fair for the work done. It is about eliminating discrimination based on skin color, nationality, gender or religion; it is about visualizing social integration alternatives and inducing a new international economic order.

Throughout the history of humanity, trade has played an important role in the exchange of goods, technology and cultural models, allowing reciprocal enrichment. Today, commerce is increasingly subordinate and uniformed to the rules of capitalism. The production destined exclusively for export, is causing serious consequences for the peoples. Among others, the loss of food self-sufficiency, the permanent looting of natural resources and the imposition of irrational consumption habits alien to their cultural tradition.

In this sense, multinationals and capital do not divide the world into North and South or between different cultures, the real division they pose is between those who can buy - who constitute the market - and those who cannot - who represent something useless that we can Discard-. The interests of the multinationals that control a large part of production and international trade, is not to generalize consumption and welfare to humanity, it is to reinforce consumption levels among those who have a sufficient economic level to spend.

Gold rules

1. Be critical of our consumption and our way of life, applying filters woven with ethical values.
2. Demand information and inform us about the social and environmental conditions in which a product or service has been prepared, how it has come down to us and what its consequences are on the environment.
3. Reduce our consumption, as an ethical and ecological option, opting for a model of well-being and happiness not based on the possession of material goods.
4. Practice a respectful consumption with nature, reducing, reusing and, finally, recycling and consuming ecological and artisan products.
5. Practice a solidarity and socially fair consumption, respectful of people and cultures, in which there is no place for discrimination or exploitation

* Guillermo Quirós Álvarez is a Physical Oceanographer


Video: SDG 12: Explaining responsible consumption and production (July 2022).


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