Consumption and Consumerism Links and Resources

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  • by Anup Shah
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There are so many resources from differing perspectives, or on particular issues, that it is hard to list most of them here, or ever hope to. As a result, I offer some starting points:

  • Books/Bibliography:
    • J.W. Smith, World's Wasted Wealth II, (Institute for Economic Democracy1, 1994)
    • J.W. Smith, Economic Democracy; Political Struggle of the 21st Century, (M.E. Sharpe, 2000)
    • Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999). (You can see accompanying on-line reading material here2. Also note that I refer to the 1999 book, as that is the one I have read, while a new version of the book is available. Robbins has an accompanying web site which you can see here3.)
    • Frances Lappe Moore, Joseph Collins, Peter Rosset, World Hunger: 12 Myths, (Food First4 and Grove Press, Second Edition, 1998)
    • Douglas H. Boucher, The Paradox of Plenty; Hunger in a Bountiful World, (Food First5 Books, 1999)
    • Eric Schossler, Fast Food Nation; The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, (Houghtan Mifflin Company, 2001)
    • Neil McKendrik, John Brewer, J.H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society, (Hutchinson, 1983)
    • Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest, (South End Press, 2000)
    • Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy; The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, (South End Press, 1997)
    • Michael Brower and Warren Leon, The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices; Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists, (Three Rivers Press, 1999)
    • Lester Brown, Michael Renner, Brian Halweil Vital Signs 2000, (World Watch Institute, 2000)
    • Giovanni Arrighi The Long Twentieth Century (Verso Press, 1994)
  • Other sections from this web site:
    • Causes of Poverty6. This section provides insights into things like:
      • structural adjustment (which amongst other things makes developing country governments reduce spending on health and education and export more resources cashcrops such as fruits while people go hungry),
      • world hunger and its causes (such as misuse of land for cashcrops and intensive industrial farming)
      • food dumping by wealthy nations onto poorer ones to destroy small farmers and national economies in developing countries
      • etc.
    • Free Trade and Globalization7. This section looks into various issues surrounding the current forms of globalization which are said to increase environmental degradation, exploit the poor, but also requires commercialized consumption in part to maintain prosperity.
    • Corporations8. This section looks at the impacts of corporations on many issues. Corporations are increasingly influential in many aspects of our lives. Of course, they are one of the main engines that drive additional consumption, that may impact the environment, and so on.
    • Environmental Issues9. This section looks at things like biodiversity and how that is decreasing, global warming and the politics behind that (and more consumption requires more energy which can mean more fossil fuel burning), human populations (where "over" population is often blamed for major environmental destruction. I suggest instead that it is "over" consumption, because human beings use resources to survive, so it is how we use resources that affect degradation, and the UN points out how the wealthiest fifth of humanity consumes 86% of the world's resources.)
    • Corporate Media10. This section of the mainstream media part of the web site looks at corporate influences in the media. In concentrated ownership; in advertising influence and so on. Through the mainstream media we learn a lot about the rest of the world and form opinions as such. Concentrated corporate ownership and more priorities to advertisers affect the information we receive, while increasing messages about consumption and buying products.
    • Examples of how consumption can be related to conflicts around the world include the various conflicts that have centered around oil and other minerals and resources. For example:
      • Democratic Republic of Congo11 has seen over 2 million people die due to war in the last two years, while many nations and international corporations are involved in battle over resources. One such resource is the highly precious coltan used in computer chips, mobile phones, microwaves and so on. A true hidden cost. Other "fashion" items that have caused conflicts include diamonds.
      • Nigeria12 where multinational oil corporations have even been accused of killing protestors at their practices, while the oil is extracted and exported mainly to the western world.
      • Middle East13 has seen centuries of conflict for dominance over the vast oil and gas resources to fuel the consumption societies of the west.
      • East Timor14 was affected severely by an invasion and long occupation by U.S. backed Indonesia, resulting in mass slaughter of people. Oil and other geopolitical interests were at the heart of this.
      • Military Expansion15 discusses and introduces how the military might of today's powerful are used to back up globalization in their favor. It is not "mere" economics!
      • There are many other conflicts, that are both discussed and not discussed on this web site that have such issues at their core. For a more deeper and broader look at these and their wider historical context refer to J.W. Smith in his books, mentioned above: Economic Democracy and World's Wasted Wealth II. As he has shown in incredible detail, most wars throughout history have trade and resources at their core. With the rise in consumerism in the past decades, many conflicts have had a more global reach. He shows how for example, the Cold War was such a resource/trade war due to the threat of loss/reduction of resources to maintain the lifestyles of the rich. How the world broke free from colonialism after World War II also saw potentially many countries being able to develop independently but were destabilized due to fears of loss of dominance and dependent development.
  • General information on consumerism, consumption etc
    • From
      • Guide to Consumerism16
      • Campaign on Consumption17 from OneWorld UK
    • Commercial Alert18 web site that aims "to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy."
    • Never enough anti-consumerism campaign19. A highly critical look at today's current form of commercialized consumerism, and its effects and causes on poverty and the planet.
    • Consumer web sites20 listed from Richard Robbins's web site that accompanies his above-mentioned book.
    • A review21 of Naomi Klein's book, No Logo (HarperCollins/Flamingo, 2000) by Walden Bello, executive director of Focus on the Global South22, is actually a very insightful review! No Logo criticizes the current forms of consumerism and globalization etc. While this review says that is "brilliant" it points out that it doesn't go deeper into the causes. Hence this review itself is a good insight into these deeper issues and causes, and combined with the book, helps form a broader picture!
    • Making Sustainability Bite: Transforming Global Consumption Patterns23 a short report from IIED (the International Institute for Environment and Development) looks at some aspects of consumption.
  • On children's education, kids consumerism etc, in particular:
    • Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting24
    • School Commercialism25 from Arizona State University
    • Obligation, Inc.26
    • Center for Commercial Free Public Education27
    • Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in Education28 from the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    • Eagle Forum29
    • The Education Industry30 by Corporate Watch
    • Advertising, Marketing, Consumerism, Propaganda And Privacy31 section of the Media Literacy and classroom project from
    • Judge Baker Children's Center32
    • Commercialism in Schools33 from

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  • by Anup Shah
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