This is the Last Straw: The Implications of a Consumtive Culture


Chrystal Savage, Staff Writer|

The abuse of single-use, non biodegradable, and non-renewable items is cause for major concern in the modern day atmosphere of a changing climate. Shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels, depleted forestation, a steady climb in warming temperatures, the landfall of more severe and variable weather patterns, the endangerment and extinction of a number of wildlife and marine species, polluted air, and acidic water bodies are among the damaging impacts on the one world we have.

Not only do we have a vastly overpopulated planet, but the societal mindset of these nearly eight billion individuals is delusional. We live in a world that heavily endorses material consumption, and therefore mass waste. Consider an 80-year-old who lived a completely waste free life, aside from their morning coffee bought everyday since they were 20-years-old. Each day they purchase a large iced coffee, two cream and two sugar; they use a coffee stirrer, sleeve, straw, disposable cup and cover. Over these 21,000 odd days, items that took less than 10 minutes to mass produce were depleted of their use in less than a half hour and will leave an infinite carbon footprint on the planet. This is a single individual, and assuming that this is the only waste they ever produce during their lifetime would be a vast understatement and a grossly optimistic view of harmful waste.

The average baby in a first world country soils up to 10 diapers a day, and for toddlers, at least two pull ups daily. For a single child this translates into more than 8,000 single items, resulting in nearly three-thousand pounds of waste from sanitary items alone, in just the first three years of life. A woman experiencing 40 years of typical menstruation patterns will produce more than 65,000 pounds of waste in her lifetime from this single biological function alone.

While these statistics are staggering, many would argue that for some things waste is unavoidable-a statement that has been proven untrue with modern innovations including menstrual cups, reusable baby cloths, and BPA free, hard plastic bottles. In the modern egocentric socio-political climate, we find ourselves immersed in “today.” It is easy to write off scientific concern with excuses of: “I won’t see the repercussions in my lifetime,” “The earth’s atmosphere has been warming since its creation,” “Nature is resilient,” among others. This fuels a collective mindset that neglects to acknowledge any narrative for concern.

This data should serve as cause alone for serious reconsideration in terms of the social implications of capitalistic consumption on the climate, and the single and only earth we are guaranteed. How and where we frame and place environmental responsibility will make all the difference long term. It is a matter of how we raise our children, and how they in turn choose to parent their children, and so on and so forth, that will inspire quantitative difference.

Next time you’re at Starbucks, opt to splurge on the $2.00 USD reusable cup that will more than pay for itself in less than two dozen visits. Over the course of four years, let alone a lifetime, there will be substantially positive personal economic and globally environmental effects. Encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Consider driving hybrid or completely green forms of transportation. Inspire legislative reform, consider your personal impacts when leaving unnecessary lights on, and use your voice as a college scholar and campus youth-activist- make your voice heard. Small changes will make a huge difference. Help ensure that the planet will not only remain intact for your posterity, but that they will live in a peaceful, sovereign, global nation united in a thriving natural community: this is the last straw.

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