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Global Dialogue 2007
Global Dialogue 2007: building global communities for all life
theme Theme of Global Dialogue 2007: building global communities for all life
Building global communities for all life Global Dialogue 2007: building global communities for all life

Environmental consumerism

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Consumer rights and responsibilities

Perceiving and understanding the human population in its role as a consumer is very important because consumers collectively spend two thirds of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They buy and influence the purchase of an increasingly wide array of products. Despite the fact that we are making consumer decisions in an emerging global community, people are still being taught how to be "good consumers", when actually the word consume means, "to destroy, use or expend". The enormous productive capacities and market forces of the planet have been committed to satisfying human needs and desires with little overall regard to the short-term or long-term future of life on the planet, or life in other nations or in future generations. There are many different types of consumers and they all need to be taken into account separately: teen, young adult, elderly, low income, disabled, illiterate, and ethnic. Each type of consumers need to be understood from the point of view of a global perspective; a global perspective that challenges materialism and promotes ecological responsibility, humanitarianism, well-being, consumer ethics and the Global Community concepts. These concepts were developed to sustain Earth and they include world conditions, global problems and issues, global citizenship, stewardship of the ecosystem of the Earth, a moral and a spiritual community, universal values, and global interconnections.

Each type of consumers need to be understood from the point of view of a global perspective; a global perspective that challenges materialism and promotes ecological responsibility, humanitarianism, well-being, consumer ethics and the Global Community concepts.

Consumption in developing countries has risen much faster over decade than in the industrialized countries due to their high rate of population growth, fast urban development, increased motorization and industrialization. In the OECD countries, a decline in world prices does not usually stimulate consumption because taxes on oil products account for most of the price to end-users.

The Global Community is concerned with the sustainability of current levels and patterns of consumption and with the economic, political, personal, environmental, availability of resources, societal and spiritual impact of excessive, run-away consumption. About 20% of Earth’s people account for 80% of the world's total consumption. We have assigned ourselves the task of finding ways to make consumption, consumer rights and responsibilities:

*     Fair to the well-being of others
*     Socially responsible and sustainable to future generations
*     In line with the universal values
*     In line with human rights and responsibilities

Consumers' rights impinge on the rights of other humans living in the Global Community . The right to choice is the consumer right that refers to the right to have a range and variety of goods and services at competitive, fair prices and variable, satisfactory quality. In order to assure choice in the developed country markets, governments have implemented trade laws to facilitate cross border transactions and transnational corporations (TNCs) have set up business off shore so they can lessen the cost of the production process. The goods that are available in the developed country markets are provided by slave labour, child labour, sweatshops or in countries that allow the TNCs to forego adhering to pollution or ecological concerns and human rights in pursuit of profit. Labour rights are abused in efforts to earn more profits. This leads to abhorrent working conditions, job insecurity and low living standards (all human rights). Consumers in developed countries have been socialized to want more and more things to consume but have not been socialized to appreciate the impact of their consumption choices on the human rights of other people; that is, they are not being responsible for their decisions.

The Global Community has proposed that the idea of sustainability to be a moral and ethical state, as well as an economic and environmental state, wherein sustainable consumption patterns respect the universal values of peace, security, justice and equity within the human relationships that exist in the global village. Put more simply, not only should consumers be concerned with the impact of their decisions on the environment but also on the lives and well-being of other people. Since one of the key functions of families as a social institution is to engage in production (selling their labour in return for wages) and consumption (using those wages to buy goods and services), the roundtable would examine the role of families as they impact sustainable consumption and development. To embrace a moral and ethical perspective, the family's function of production and consumption has to be discussed in relation to its other key functions , especially
(a) socialization of children into adult, roles and
(b) social control of family members so they are responsible contributing members of society.

Responsible consumption within the Global Community means:

*     Awareness of global dynamics, the state of the planet, and the differences of other cultures
*     Being concerned with the impact of consumption and production on the environment
*     Acceptance of notions of voluntary simplicity and conservation
*     Knowing the consequences of resource management decisions
*     Living a sustainable life style
*     Be aware of the impacts of new and different technologies
*     Be aware of the impacts of economic development on the integrity of both developed and developing local indigenous communities, infrastructures and natural environments
*     Be aware of the impacts on human rights, political stability, societal well-being, cultural sustainability, familial well-being, quality of life and standards of living of other nations
*     Be aware of the impacts of a decision made by a family living in developed country to consume a particular good on the household subsistence, production and community activity of a family living in a developing country; and be aware if that decision would affect poverty, potable water, food diversity, arable land, security from war, education, communications

Consumers operate in an impersonal market economy where they make choices unburdened by guilt or social obligations; they just have to be able to pay. But a typical global community consumer see himself/herself as part of a larger whole that is affected by a collectivity of individual consumption decisions and has to question the global integrity of purchasing a product, and will decide not to purchase at all if the integrity is being challenged.




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