With Christmas just around the corner once again I am sure that many of you are running around buying your family and friends their gifts but I wanted to urge you all to consider carefully what it is that you are actually buying. Now by no means am I trying to suck the fun out Christmas but there is a hidden cost to be born by all who inhabit this earth as a result of our consumer-driven culture.
As our awareness of our global interconnectedness and interdependence is become more prevalent, and our impact on our environment is growing at alarming rates, it is important to consider the true cost of the goods that you buy this Christmas. While something may have a cheap price tag here for us in Australia it may have an even bigger social and environmental price tag somewhere else in the world. And what we are learning is that just because we don’t see the impact ourselves, it reverberates around the world in more dangerous ways.
Large companies call these hidden costs ‘externalities’. An example of an externality would be the costs worn by governments and councils (essentially the taxpayers) for the disposal of the ridiculous amount of waste plastic wrapping we discard each year on the 25th of December. While companies in China, or Taiwan, or Haiti etc produce these items for next to nothing, for another company here to sell them at a profit, neither are responsible for the externalised costs of the disposal of the waste. This waste is not only avoidable and unnecessary, it also carries with it an environmental cost that is felt the world over.
While I am mainly pointing to the impacts of overseas companies producing goods for sale here, the points I am conveying are not limited to overseas industry. The same things happen here in Australia, and also other ‘developed’ countries. A lot of these factories in Asia also lack any kind of waste water recycling facilities which means that the waste water full of toxins and paint products to dye the plastics is simply dumped in to their local water supply. This obviously has a huge impact on the local population who may rely on that water supply to drink from but if their water supply, directly, or indirectly, feeds in to a larger water supply, or the sea/oceans, it can have a much larger affect.
Pollutants that enter a water supply somewhere in the world can inadvertently impact the whole world. Much like air pollutants. We all breathe the same air from the same biosphere. China, or America’s biosphere is intimately connected to ours here. So although we may hear about something bad happening somewhere is in the world regarding the pollution of the seas or air it affects us all! Not just now but also well in to the future.
Another point to consider is the working conditions of those employed in sweat-shops and factories the world over; countries from which we import a massive percentage of the goods on shelves in our shopping centres. It is easy to dismiss the impact that we have from simply buying something here but we nonetheless drive these poor conditions and suppression of the human spirit through our buying decisions. Some may argue that without us to buy their products these workers wouldn’t be making any money to feed their families but remember that the human species lived for well over 150,000 years before the widespread use of ‘money’ as a means of survival and exchange.
So my Christmas wish is that you all stop and consider the true, ethical cost of the purchases you make this Christmas for your family and friends. Remember that just because we don’t directly see the impact doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it in some way. Choose quality over quantity; don’t just buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff, try to buy things that will be truly treasured and used to their full extent. Try to buy local products and minimise the wrapping; remember that just because you don’t have to see the rubbish once it gets collected doesn’t mean it is gone. Nowhere on this planet is ‘gone’, it always remains somewhere and has an impact.
Remember, less is more!