Hunger for Consumption

Amidst the chaos in contemporary politics with an escalating polarization, another story has passed by relatively quietly. For the first time in decades, during 2016 global hunger increased instead of decreased. The number? Some 38 million people. 

FUF Lund columnist Kristoffer Berglund. Photo: Private.

The Food and Agriculture Organization claims that the reason, contrary to populist belief, is the one-two punch of climate change and conflict. Climate change risks both starting and exacerbating conflicts, which is already happening, adding to the evidence for the urgency of climate action. On this topic, there is some concern that Donald Trump is the canary in the coal mine, giving a glimpse of a future dystopia of climate change deniers. Scientists, media and politicians will have to keep working for the scientific evidence to prevail. Despite all their flaws, I cannot help but believing in climate change movies such as An Inconvenient Sequel or Before the Flood to this end.

It is no longer a controversial claim that overconsumption is detrimental to climate change. However, while global hunger is increasing by millions, we are gripped by Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and an endless stream of new products looking to fill whatever gap (manufactured or otherwise) there is in our lives. The twist is that they cannot, of course. Satisfaction turns out to be bad for business. In the words of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman:

For a kind of society which proclaims customer satisfaction to be its sole motive and paramount purpose, a satisfied consumer is neither motive nor purpose – but the most terrifying menace.

Guilt trips aside, isn’t it remarkable that while climate change wreaks havoc, our culture encourages buying more and more stuff, indulging in continuously changing trends of disposable fashion, weekend flights and wi-fi connected digital photo frames? Where are my Hollywood movies on consumerist culture? While another 38 million starve, our hunger for consumer goods keeps growing.

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About Kristoffer Berglund

Kristoffer is a Master's student of Sociology at Lund University, with a Bachelor's degree in Development Studies. He is originally from the Åland Islands, Finland. Some of his interests are climate change and political economy.

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