Why it matters:
Because voracious consumerism seems to have a negative effect on the environment. Who would have guessed it?
According to a recent Reuters report, the economic crisis…has an upside! The European Environment Agency announced Monday that greenhouse gas emissions for several European Union countries fell for the fourth straight year in 2008. And this year, credit is largely going to the reduction in industrial activity that came on the heels of the economic crisis.
The 15 EU countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol saw a 1.3 percent reduction from 2007 emission levels, and the entire 27-country bloc saw a 1.5 percent reduction.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas was pleased with the news, but added, “One should recognize that part of the reduction in emissions is due to the economic slowdown.” He insists the trend must continue in coming years, and that the news would send a “timely message to the rest of the world.”
Purchasing certain goods and services is a necessity — there’s no doubt about that. Most civilizations are built upon the notion of specialization. From the coopers, blacksmiths, and farriers of old to today’s foley artists, bathroom attendants, and chicken sexers. Even those off-the-grid, self-proclaimed renaissance men will, at some point, have to pay for a service they cannot (or will not) perform or purchase a product they cannot make themselves. Just like my steam-powered laptop.
Whether Commissioner Dimas will be making the connection between consumerism and its environmental impact at the Copenhagen climate conference in December is unclear. In times of economic crisis, the battle cry tends to be “Buy! Buy! Buy!” Which usually lands us in another financial crisis. And while commerce makes the wheels go round, the facts speak for themselves: reduced demand for consumer goods is good for the environment.