The Latin roots of the word consumption give away some fairly revealing hints as to how our consumer-based civilization had, since its very early stages, already began its transformation into a planet-cidal death cult. Con(altogether) and Sumere(take-up) basically means complete and total exhaustion of a resource. This is how humans, as recent as the last millennium, perceived in their minds the utilization of resources: whether it is a sandwich or a coal mine. It is nothing less than an all-or-nothing affair. Resources are there to be totally used. Ingested. Devoured. Con-sumed.
Consumption is perhaps one of the most cold, vulgar and “unconscious” words that exist. Emotionally detached, brutally transactional, merely describing the action of consuming while omitting any reference whatsoever to the effects that this consumption has. It is a word that has been engineered to hide the ugliness and pain that lies under all types of consumption that exist: ecocide, extinction, natural devastation.
To normalize things further, we are all born into this world being told that we are “consumers” by birthright. We are legitimized assassins that “work hard” for the things that they buy, having been made to believe that they deserve them, and some more. Just like hit men, we don’t care about how we pay our bills. We’ve got things that we need and houses to fill with meaningless stuff. The same propaganda machine that welcomed us into this world also tells us that as long as there is a price tag on a steak of extinction-endangered tuna fish, it is legitimate to buy it. You have full permission. Money becomes only a number, a currency that paints over all of the destruction underneath that no one wants to see: the pain and suffering that took place in order for a product to be made, shipped and sold. The species that had to die, lose their homes or members of their family, in order to either enable the manufacture of consumables or to become consumables themselves.
Of course most consumables are objects, plants or animals that had a much, much greater value before a price tag was assigned to them. Capitalism allows these “products” to enter the death spiral of the expiration date, in order to make a profit. As much as this process that we call “economy” is unsustainable, physics in the end always prevails in a finite planet, with finite resources, and circular systems. Every Ponzi scheme fails to obey math and is condemned to bankruptcy. Every aberrant organism, or process for that matter, that eats its surroundings into extinction will eventually have an existential issue: it will have to eat itself. The circle closes once again, and the planet finds a new balance, with new players, new climate systems that once again try to respect each other, until the next villain comes along. With or without humans in the picture, Earth will always be a Circle.
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books