Are we Humans or Consumers?

Is the amount of rubbish we generate a fair indication of how much we consume or are we as humans rubbish at shopping?
— Janne Baetsen

Battle of Values

We all know by now the 'Dark Side of our Beloved World of Fashion': the environmental impact (after oil world's 2nd most polluting industry), the exploitation of workers, and the impact of self-image (eating disorders, age, lack of ethnic representation, etc.). Fashion faces severe global environmental and social challenges.

The 4.3 billion dollars pile of unsold clothes of H&M shows once more that the current market system is a waste machine and we as [compulsive] consumers could easily be seen as vehicles to create money [and preferably more money]. Christmas shopping, The Gift of Valentine's Day, Non-Stop Sale and Black Friday are all part of the 'Shop Till You Drop' game, invented to keep the wheels turning.  

 Artist: Libby Oliver,  Soft Shells,  2017. (image courtesy of the artist)   www.chewonthisart.com   @chewonthisart    Libby:  I'm not looking to demonize the people that participate in my project, but rather emphasize we're all in this consuming individuality contradiction. And, there is something ironic about the consumability of my images and art...

Artist: Libby Oliver, Soft Shells, 2017.
(image courtesy of the artist) 
www.chewonthisart.com @chewonthisart

Libby: I'm not looking to demonize the people that participate in my project, but rather emphasize we're all in this consuming individuality contradiction. And, there is something ironic about the consumability of my images and art...

Artist: Libby Oliver, Soft Shells, The Gang, 2017. (image courtesy of the artist) 
www.chewonthisart.com @chewonthisart

More or Less

But honestly, does this come as a surprise?! Ask yourself; Is our current economy truly based on the right values and pillars for a sustainable world, knowing it still focusses mostly on cost reduction [and as a result financial profit/growth] instead of social contribution and the most efficient use of world's resources? Most of us define progress and success as in more, faster, richer, most liked... We want the best products for the lowest prices, while also perceiving new better as old/used. The fundamentals of [the growth of] our economy and the consumer identity are based on a continuous/increase in demand to produce goods and services. Products and services aren’t [preferably] designed to last as long as possible, to be updated or to be shared. Consumption and ownership are the fuel of our economy.

It's all in the name

When did we started thinking primarily as consumers and lost sight of the collective good? Initially the 'identity' and meaning of the word consumer was more about claiming our power, our freedom of choice as well as raising standards. But is this still the case in today's world that seem to be dominated by a consumer mindset and language? We are mostly seeking for that what offers us the most for less. 

Are we able to change these perceptions, systems, values and definitions that are so ‘pressed’ into our DNA, mindset, communication and economy? Because, what often begins as a basis in which to understand the human mind, behaviour, sustainability and progress suddenly reappears as a route to sell people stuff, work harder and conform to policy, in line with 'the monetary value rules' of our economy. And, therefore, are we investing through technology and design in the innovation of the right system or do WE [also] need to innovate into conscious contributors?

Our unconscious mind might already be fighting for this human innovation transformation as it seems more relevant to us than ever to place our and others' choices and actions in a context that forces us to question their true value and our identity. To name a few: Storytelling, transparency, circular economy, #whomademyclothes, Brexit, #metoo #marchforourlives....

No wonder that not only the fashion industry is struggling with today's value-based economy and the environmental impact of [over-] consumption. Also the food industry! Event Manager Cora Harrison of the 3rd upcoming the Institute of Art and Ideas' Talk Eating to Save The Planet: "Over-fishing, chemical pollution from farms, and mass deforestation to grow crops for animals rather than humans - our appetites are a major factor in ecological destruction and food insecurity. And not only does our diet of factory-farmed meat harm the environment, it also damages our health."

Give or Take?

How have food and fashion become instruments of destruction? When did we trade eating and dressing for consumption? Is the solution practical and pragmatic action? Or does the way we eat or dress reflect a fundamental flaw in our concept of the self?

Different questions, different industries, but aren't we all seeking for the same answers and solutions?