The United States (US) has grown as a sprawling modern society with roads and highways crisscrossing in every direction. This growth was fostered by shell corporations of General Motors (GM) throughout the mid-1900’s (Klein and Olson 1996). While this growth did improve the post-WWII economy through exploding suburbs and automobile sales. GM produced thousands of vehicles, as they had successfully decimated the efficiencies of other public transport by degrading the quality of the services All done through shell companies (Klein and Olson 1996). This business strategy to force consumers into automobiles was overwhelmingly successful and automobiles are embodied in American culture. Today, the US holds firmly to the status symbol of the automobile young and old alike craving bigger, louder and faster cars. This need leaves the as US one of the highest consumers of fossil fuels and, the second largest producer of carbon emissions in 2011; according to a study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2014 (Bell and Ashwood 2016:37). US consumers continue to consume all goods beyond cars and trucks striving to show superior socioeconomic status without regard for environmental costs if they look good it does not matter. Wanting to have a fancier car or larger home, seeking a label of success smaller variables too, Coach purses, Apple products, Burberry clothing.
The psychology of a US buyer typically revolves around peers’ perceptions with basic primary needs met, as presented by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can spend unscrupulously on higher needs (Bell and Ashwood 2016:53). All to fit the niche of higher needs positions must be chosen for or against these subscriptionsCan you accept a more basic hierarchy? Our perceptions of need is masked as the US retail outlets fill our homes with ads giving us perceived deficits and needs, Just as GM did with the automobile. American see no fault in this subscription to consumerism, the true costs are shifted around like a 3-cup shell game performed by a magician out of sight out of mind. Our waste is taken away without question, transported outside the city and unceremoniously dumped into a landfill. The impact of consumerism is not lost on non-subscribers accepting a lower hierarchy, it is viewed through a filter of true need. It’s easier to see clearly when we are able to step back and look at a big picture. Non-subscribers receive this benefit by filtering their perceived needs through actual needs. They filter their consumption and invest in cleaner sources and less consumption thus reducing their long-term environmental impact and earning sustainability through a modest need-based lifestyle. Conversely, subscribers continue to consume at immense rates and cannot distinguish true need from perceived needs. Subscribers run up environmental cost as they drive their Maserati and fuel up, never realizing what their consumption demands impact.
The corporate tycoons and political like magicians touting efficiency have enabled environmental externalities to flourish trash is never seen beyond your neighborhood garbage truck, vehicle emissions are not visible without a proper meter, fuel prices are kept low, power plants are located hundreds of miles from service areas often never considered by the subscriber. Despite the subscriber’s consumption studies found that they are not benefiting in terms of happiness, yet we still fiercely chase money, goods, efficiency and, status (Bell and Ashwood 2016:74-76). Efficient does not mean risk-free perfection. Automobile fuel is not a rapidly renewable source one of the many risks was illustrated by MIT in a 2013 study indicated that approximately fifty-three-thousand deaths annually in the US can be attributed to automobile emissions (Bell and Ashwood 2016:112). While fuel-efficient cars reduce emissions per mile driven and, cost per gallon they are still consuming fossil fuels. We need a shift to alternative clean fuels, not just here in the US but globally. The US technological advancements need to be applied to evolving industrial nations around the world. A prime example of this is Puerto Rico following hurricanes last year the power grid was destroyed this is an ideal opportunity to upgrade to the latest clean energy technology available if you are going to rebuild or build do so in the best way possible. Hurricanes and disaster are often how subscribers are forced to evaluate need or perceived need. Hardships delivered by disaster force us to depend on our community and families instead of technology (Bell and Ashwood 2016:76).
This involuntarily eliminates many of the dependencies on power, clean water, food, cars, and availability of fuel. This generates hysteria in the subscribers forcing them to consume at their rate of need and eliminating perceived needs due to resource scarcity. Unfortunately, these changes are short-lived as creatures of habit we often revert back to familiar methods. Similar to the idea of rebuilding Puerto Rico with new technology society must embrace the conversion to actual need over perceived need and choose to act sustainably. Sustainability is a systemic global problem that must be addressed from multiple areas economic, societal and, political to name a few. Locally the US population must establish a desire for conversion to actual needs. One way to achieve this is to quantify for individuals the impact and true cost of an item empowering them to make sustainable choices. This has been done with the yellow energy labels on appliances and with fuel efficiency ratings on cars. Businesses strive to meet consumers needs if sustainability is lucrative for them they will offer incentives Such as solar panels being installed on homes and selling excess energy produced back to the power company to redistributethis could net a zero dollar power bill.
If business and society convert to need-based choices towards sustainability so too will democratic governments as they carry out the wishes of their constituents and seek economic gains for their nation. Consumers must be vigilant of corporate tycoons fearing the loss of their perceived needs and politicians fearing for their own interest instead of embracing technology and change in the shift towards sustainability. GM demonstrated how easily a single interest could impact an entire nation. Sustainability can be attained if US consumers can understand what it means for them personally why chose clean energy? Failure to learn and act sustainably would result in immeasurable blows to environmental justice. Subscribers and tycoons and politicians will evict us from our planet if we do not choose to be non-subscribers working towards sustainability.