In many countries people tend to consider money as a fundamental part to feel happy. Money allow people to buy goods that make them feel “happier” such as more luxury cars, a bigger house, fashion clothes, shoes etc. There is, in fact, a culture that associates consumerism with happiness, it is, while you have more money for buying different goods you will feel happier, and that’s why a lot of people work so hard all their live to get all those goods that they think will make them happier.
Most of the industry exists to satisfy not only what people needs but also what people want. A good example of this are American cars. While in Europe the car industry focused more on manufacturing cars with good fuel efficiency and smaller, American cars were designed to satisfy what American people wanted, it is, bigger cars, with bigger engines that had more horsepower but also a very low fuel efficiency, many times, because this powerful cars gave them satisfaction and even a social status. Clearly because of this culture of consumerism, people preferred buying many cars instead of thinking on use or having a better public transport system, so the concentration of cars in cities was raised and the air pollution as well. As it is well know, fossil fuels are responsible for a great part of global warming. And this is just an example of what consumerism culture may cause to the environment.
There is a global ranking based on a survey that shows how happy people consider they live:
It is interesting to see how many developing countries like Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, are in the first places of this ranking. It is interesting because in all those countries most of their population lives in poverty conditions that does not allow them to buy all those goods that people in developed countries consider a synonym of satisfaction or happiness. The reason for this, since my point of view (reminding you that I come from one of these countries, Mexico) is that people try more to enjoy the simple things of life, such as being with their families, the nature and in many cases they are not so worried about making money. It could be considered to be conformist being like that, but in fact, that is the way they adapt to live in the conditions where they live.
There is something called “Ecological Footprint” that measures how many resources you will spend to satisfy your way of life. Of course while more consumerist you are, you will have a higher ecological footprint.
The main reason why industry exists is for satisfying the people needing, and of course progress can’t be understood without industry. But there is a law called “supply and demand law” so while people demand more, industry will try to satisfy these demands, so a good motivation for industry would be to change consumer demands and for doing it, people must change their culture of associating simple consumerism with happiness. Of course people have needing, but every time we feel attracted by the culture of consumerism we should ask ourselves, do I really need this?, does it really make me happier? . I think that when we do ourselves this kind of questions, we will have started a good change for our planet.