Consumerism: The Elephant In The Room

Before I get started, I am a tech nerd. I love tech. I eat because of tech. I have computer(s), phone(s), tablet(s), camera(s), watch(es), tv(s), video streaming box(es), gaming system(s), a car. Heck, I have a smart thermostat. I am always waiting for the next best thing. I geek out when the next version of Ubuntu comes out. Two of my favorite podcasts talk specifically about the tech industry and its consumers. I get my new smartphone every two years. I jump from ecosystem to ecosystem to test the waters. I dream of owning an iPhone, Nexus phone, and a high end Windows phone so I can jump around at will.


I am also concerned about the environment. I am a omnivore, but I abstain from meat in almost all cases because of the large environmental impact. I have a scooter that gets 100 mpg that I drive 9 months out of the year just so I use my inefficient car as little as possible. I fret about squeezing every energy saving kilowatt hour out of my house. Part of that is my love of tech, but the main goal is to be green and then save money. I love to fly and travel, my job demands it. I fight it though because just one flight pretty much negates all the green energy saving tech and habits that I have brought into my life.

Some of you don't live in this way, and I am not here to judge, so please don't take my observations and thoughts as anything other than conversation. But there are many of you out there like me. We are living this first world problem of enjoying so much technology and connectivity but with a cost that goes unquestioned. Every year sees a ridiculous amount of technology in every size and shape. Tech that, in six months, a year, or two years is completely useless because another comes along and does its job slightly better.

We are in a class of consumers with disposable income. This class provides the lifestyle that we all enjoy today. The tech we've amassed over the years is some sort of badge of honor. The physical embodiment of our dedication and devotion to a brand, a line of products, etc. This lifestyle of buying non-essentials is untenable. The market of creating such significance of iterative non-essentials is untenable. It is certainly not wrong to enjoy products and what they've done for us, but there is a cost and a consequence. The rapid overclocking of the iterative cycle only makes it worse. My tech mind rejoices at the increased frequency that we see improvements but it only speeds up this established unsustainable over-consumption model. It strangles water supplies, natural resources, affects climate and actual ecosystems. As the class of consumers with disposable income becomes larger and spreads to developing countries, it will only make the problem exponentially worse.

So if this model depends on the creation of disposable goods to consume for short and predictable measures of time, what's with the infatuation? Why don't we demand change to the system? Do we see the problem? If we don't, why don't we see it? Do we not want to discuss it? Is it too scary to think about? Why don't we try to make suggestions as consumers to try to curb the rampant depletion of natural resources, the inhumane labor practices, and the insanely inefficient energy used to source, create, and stock this tech?

This has been weighing heavily on my mind. I am surprised that The Verge itself hasn't broached the issue. I don't have answers, I have only thoughts, suggestions, and worry. For instance, making less "consumer grade" goods and make better quality ones that would last longer sounds both like viable options. Or making goods from and only from renewable resources, etc. What is the tipping point for the discussion to kick in? If we don't face up to the problem, we are left with dealing with the consequences sooner rather than later.