American Consumerism and the Global Environment
Alternatives

Perhaps what is more frightening than the rate at which American consumption is destroying the environment is that the mantra of American consumer economy - "more is better" - is spreading throughout the globe.
All over the world, people surf the Internet, watch American TV shows, read American magazines, and are exposed to American advertising. For these people, "development" has come to mean having what Americans have: large living quarters, multiple cars, appliances, cable TV, stereos, and other luxuries as opposed to things such as electricity, telephones, and running water. If China alone succeeded in consuming as much as the American nation does, the environmental effects would be beyond reckoning.
Cars, and other forms of transportation, account for nearly 30% of world energy use and 95% of global oil consumption. In all four corners of the world the number of cars on the road continues to grow. In the U.S. there are more cars on the road than licensed drivers and since the 1980s the number of cars in China has grown by more than 10% annually.  The Chinese Government predicts there will be at least 22 million cars in China by 2010. Increased reliance on automobiles means more use of fossil fuels and more pollution. It means destroying the ozone layer to a further extent and polluting waterways so that other species can no longer survive.
It is not only cars that are a problem though, “American” values and lifestyles have been exploding everywhere. By the early 1990s in India, sales of consumer items were expanding rapidly from automobiles to frozen dinners. Construction crews in Indonesia "work day and night to erect vast shopping malls.


So what gives Americans the privilege of using more than their share of resources? Perhaps they shouldn’t. It is true that Americans have no right to tell other countries not to consume as Americans do, but that does not give them license to idly watch our planet deteriorate. Perhaps the alternative is for Americans to begin to set the example. Maybe, just maybe, if Americans didn’t view 3 cars and 4 plasma screen TVs per family as a necessity, other countries would be less inclined to feel that way.
Some argue that other countries would pay no attention to the example. Perhaps not, but even so, consuming lessand in a more conscious manner in America would save a vast amount of world resources, perhaps even give the earth time to replenish some of them!