Overconsumption is a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to environmental degradation and the eventual loss of resource bases.

Generally, the discussion of overconsumption parallels that of human overpopulation; that is the more people, the more consumption of raw materials takes place to sustain their lives. But, humanity’s overall impact on the planet is affected by many factors besides the raw number of people. Their lifestyle (including overall affluence and resource utilization) and the pollution they generate (including carbon footprint) are equally important. Currently, the inhabitants of the developed nations of the world consume resources at a rate almost 32 times greater than those of the developing world, who make up the majority of the human population (7.4 billion people).

However, the developing world is a growing market of consumption. These nations are quickly gaining more purchasing power and it is expected that the Global South, which includes cities in Asia, Latin America and Africa, will account for 56% of consumption growth by 2030. This means that consumption rates will plateau for the developed nations and shift more into these developing countries.

The theory of overpopulation reflects issues of carrying capacity without taking into account per capita consumption, by which developing nations are evaluated to consume more than their land can support. It is expected that world population growth will increase by 41% from 2000 to 2050, reaching a height of 8.9 billion people. On top of the rapid growth expectancy, it will be highly concentrated in the developing nations. This poses issues with inequality of consumption as well. The nations that will come into consumer dominance must abstain from abusing certain forms of consumption, especially energy consumption of CO2. Green parties and the ecology movement often argue that consumption per person, or ecological footprint, is typically lower in poor than in rich nations.

Overconsumption covers several aspects, the three main ones being:

the current consumption of the so-called rich and developed countries, which would eventually lead to the depletion of many global natural resources (energy, biomass, genetic diversity, raw materials, but also drinking water and groundwater for example). This type of consumption (and development) could not therefore, in the short term, be generalized to the entire population of the planet; see the notion of ecological footprint, at the level of an individual or a country.

this consumption of the developed countries would carry many inconveniences at the planetary level such as: climate disruptions, pollution of all kinds (water, excessive consumption of fertilizers and pesticides, air transport too massively) for example), over-consumption of medicines creating very serious public health problems (increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, for example), etc. With, among the consequences, the need for additional consumption of care: a vicious circlesettles. The increase in consumption would therefore not necessarily be positive, and could be highly counterproductive. The natural environment and bioproductive space (forest, meadow, arable land, etc.) available is itself declining due to deforestation and the importance of peri-urbanization and the development of deserts and degraded soils. The poaching, the hunt excessive and overfishing affect local resources but with delayed effects in space and time via migratory species.

the diseases of abundance (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, etc.) are developing, and they would be largely related to new eating habits (excess of sweet, salty and fatty foods, industrial foods less rich in trace elements and health-promoting nutrients, replacing highly protective fruits and vegetables) in most developed countries (to a lesser extent in France, Japan, Switzerland and Sweden..).

According to the report the deputy Jacques Le Guen on “Protection of tropical forests and their biodiversity against degradation and deforestation,” presented the October 2010 President Sarkozy, world consumption is directly linked to deforestation.

At the heart of this notion of overconsumption is therefore the concept of counter-productivity, developed for example by Ivan Illich in the 1970s, and taken over in France by André Gorz, aka Michel Bosquet.

In understanding the effects of over-consumption, it is pertinent to understand what causes the phenomenon. There is a spectrum of goods and services that the world population constantly consume. These range from food and beverage, clothing and footwear, housing, energy, technology, transportation, education, health and personal care, financial services and other utilities. Each of these require a different resource and once that resource is exploited to a certain point, that qualifies as over consumption. Since the developing nations are rising quickly into the consumer class, it is important to note the trends happening in these nations. According to the World Bank, the highest shares of consumption lie in food and beverage and clothing and footwear. This applies regardless of sector of income.

Two main factors of why we buy so much and so often is due to planned and perceived obsolescence. This factor of production was introduced first in the United States and it revolves around the design of products and with these methods, the products are intentionally designed to get rid of after a short amount of time. As of 2012, only 1% of goods purchased were still in use after 6 months. This is due to planned and perceived obsolescence. When it is planned, designers create products that will not be able to work after a certain amount of time but they work for enough time to ensure the customers will come back to buy again. Perceived obsolescence comes in a lot with fashion and trends and fueled by advertising and media consumption. Through this technique, consumers are convinced that certain products do not have value anymore because it is out of style, and in order to have value, consumers must buy more up to date styles. Here is where fast fashion was born. As of 2015, the top five consumer markets in the world included the United States, Japan, Germany, China and France.

Over-consumption of food
One of the biggest supplements can be food. As a result, the industry will become more active, and this will increase the pollution of air, water and soil. However, when using chemical fertilizers, yields are increasing, but the quality of food is decreasing and the soil is impoverished. Many industries are no longer aiming to produce high-quality food, but in large quantities, and therefore the quality of food is being undermined. Over-consumption of food does not only pollute the environment, but it can also lead to various health problems for people. For example, over-consumption of sugar can lead to serious health problems.

People use water in a very large quantity and for the right variety of purposes. Water consumption is of paramount importance to the human body. Generally, every person should drink about 1.5 liters of water, some drink more, some less. Water is used in various industrial plants for food, water is a big part of our everyday life. Approximately 90% of the water consumed in industry, in services and in households from households returns to nature after consumption. Industrial waters containing chemical compounds or by-products also return to the water. Clean fresh water is an invaluable natural resource without touching Earth on earth.

Alcohol overconsumption
Alcohol abuse issues are increasingly on the agenda of the media, as it is precisely among young people that drinking alcohol is popular and widespread communication is expected to anticipate many disasters. The reasons for drinking alcohol may be due to various reasons such as:

Problems at home
Escape from obligations
Anniversary celebrations
Tension release, relaxation

By drinking alcohol, it quickly absorbs the stomach into the blood and intestines and eventually reaches all organs. Most of the alcohol is then cleaved and released from the blood through the liver, but a small part (10%) is excreted through the urine, breath and sweat.

Even drinking small amounts of beer, wine, and spirits affects people’s thinking and coordination. Larger quantities can cause alcohol poisoning. Alcohol causes nerve damage, heart disease and cancer. But this is by no means everything.

Alcoholic beverages affect your blood alcohol content (alcohol grams per liter of blood), depending on your gender, body weight, age, genetic characteristics, the speed of drinking and whether you are drinking while drinking. Women have less water (and more fat) in the body than men, and therefore, women drink more alcohol in the same amount of alcohol when they drink the same amount of alcohol.

Drug overconsumption
Drugs are chemical substances that affect human perception, behavior, and perception of the world around them. All drugs can be addictive, that is, the desire and need to get this drug over and over again. Drugs can be lawful, or legal, prohibited by law, or illegal. Drugs can either be of natural origin (e.g., hemp) or synthesized (for example, amphetamine). In addition, each drug has its own name and usually also a number of nicknames. Alcohol and tobacco are also drugs: they can be addictive, but their use is not prohibited by law for adults.

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All drugs can be addictive. Under the influence of drugs, human behavior can become unpredictable. Each drug has side effects, often harmful and irreversible.

A fundamental effect of overconsumption is a reduction in the planet’s carrying capacity. Excessive unsustainable consumption will exceed the long term carrying capacity of its environment (ecological overshoot) and subsequent resource depletion, environmental degradation and reduced ecosystem health.

Looking at the two largest sectors of over consumption, the fashion and food industries, we can see most of the harmful effects on the Earth starting here. The fashion industry has created a new venue, fast fashion, which in 2013 produced 15.1 million tons of textile waste and of that, 12.8 million tons were thrown out. The United States, being the largest consumer market, deals with excess clothing by exporting it to poorer, developing nations but this solution is not sustainable because the demand will go down as cheap clothing becomes more readily available. Another way of disposal is to throw out into landfills or burn up in incinerators which is the least sustainable disposal solution.

The food industry is the other largest sector of consumption and studies show that people waste a fifth of food products just through disposal or overconsumption. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization collected data and found that by the time food reaches the consumer, 9% (160 million tons) goes uneaten and 10% is lost to overconsumption – meaning consumers ate more than the calorie intake requirement. Other aspects of losses surrounding dry matter came at each stage in the food system, the highest amount being from livestock production at 43.9%, transportation accounted for 18% and consumer waste accounting for 12.2% loss. When the consumer takes in too much, this not only explains losses in the beginning of the stage at production (and over production) but also lends itself to overconsumption of energy and protein, having harmful effects on the body.

The scale of modern life’s overconsumption has enabled an overclass to exist, displaying affluenza and obesity. However once again both of these claims are controversial with the latter being correlated to other factors more so than over-consumption. Within the topic of overconsumption there are many other ideas that should be considered in order to find the true cause of it. Some important events that coincide are poverty, population and the development of an area. Overconsumption can also lead to a decline in the economy and financial instability.

In the long term, these effects can lead to increased conflict over dwindling resources and in the worst case a Malthusian catastrophe. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, has said: “It would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our present level of consumption. Environmentally, the world is in an overshoot mode.”

As of 2012, the United States alone was using 30% of the world’s resources and if everyone were to consume at that rate, we would need 3-5 planets to sustain this type of living. Resources are quickly becoming depleted, with about ⅓ already gone. With new consumer markets rising in the developing countries which account for a much higher percent of the world’s population, this number can only rise.

Overconsumption as a dependence
The fact that a person is occasionally consuming over-consumption of goods as a “cure” for mild melancholy or boredom can lead to dependence. Over-consumption of goods as a dependence has to do with the purchase of much more products than you need, without being able to maintain control, especially when these products are not used by humans after purchase.

The problem can begin when the person finds that after some purchase, he feels better. Improved mood may be temporary, but the individual may adopt this behavior as an “effective” way of dealing with unpleasant emotional states by entering into a circle of dependence.

When there is an excessive and uncontrolled desire to buy goods on a yearly basis, then we are talking about compulsive overconsumption. It is a form of dependency where the individual continues to make purchases and spend money, despite the negative consequences this may have in his life: debts, family and legal problems, etc.

Economic growth
The Worldwatch Institute said China and India, with their booming economies, along with the United States, are the three planetary forces that are shaping the global biosphere. The State of the World 2005 report said the two countries’ high economic growth exposed the reality of severe pollution. The report states that

The world’s ecological capacity is simply insufficient to satisfy the ambitions of China, India, Japan, Europe and the United States as well as the aspirations of the rest of the world in a sustainable way.

The idea of overconsumption is also strongly tied to the idea of an ecological footprint. The term “ecological footprint” refers to the “resource accounting framework for measuring human demand on the biosphere.” Currently, China is roughly 11 times lower in per capita footprint, yet has a population that is more than four times the size of the USA. It is estimated that if China developed to the level of the United States that world consumption rates would roughly double. According to Scientific American, one person from China uses 53 times fewer resources than the average American.

A 2018 study published in Science postulates that meat consumption is set to increase as the result of human population growth and rising affluence, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions and further reduce biodiversity.

The most obvious solution to the issue of overconsumption is to simply slow the rate at which materials are becoming depleted. Less consumption naturally has negative effects on economies – so instead, countries must look to curb consumption rates while allowing for new industries, such as renewable energy and recycling technologies, to flourish and deflect some of the economic burden. A fundamental shift in the global economy may be necessary in order to account for the current change that is taking place or that will need to take place. Movements and lifestyle choices related to stopping overconsumption include: anti-consumerism, freeganism, green economics, ecological economics, degrowth, frugality, downshifting, simple living, minimalism, and thrifting.
Recent grassroots movements have been coming up with creative ways to decrease the amount of goods we consume. The Freecycle Network is a network of people in one’s community that are willing to trade goods for other goods or services. It is a new take on thrifting while still being beneficial to both parties.
Other researchers and movements such as the Zeitgeist Movement suggest a new socioeconomic model which, through a structural increase of efficiency, collaboration and locality in production as well as effective sharing, increased modularity, sustainability and optimal design of products, are expected to reduce resource-consumption. Added information about overconsumption and excess garbage and its affect on urban communities and the environment. Solutions offered include consumers using market forces to influence businesses towards more sustainable manufacturing and products.

Limitations of the analysis
Overconsumption is a very largely political notion, and its economic component is not the subject of a consensus in economics. No robust research was conducted on this subject, particularly because of the difficulty in defining objective criteria for categorizing what would be, domain by area, insufficient, normal or excessive consumption.

One problem – often cited as being at the heart of the notion of overconsumption – is the assessment of the quantities, qualities, availability or accessibility of certain world natural resources reliably (oil and coal for example). The notion of over-consumption focuses largely on the eventual depletion of natural resources or their regression, which would critically endanger the vital ecosystem services (production of drinking water, breathable air, etc.) provided by ecosystems, and the speed with which it would occur. Biodiversity is often mentioned (through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment) and peak oil, or the depletion and depletion of fish stocks. But how do we know if these resources will be quickly exhausted, if we do not know how to measure them reliably? This is what standard economics says today.

But the notion of overconsumption is not limited to a simple depletion of natural resources, other sciences can eventually take over from the economic science, to provide more details.

Source from Wikipedia