By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
Dozens of cargo ships carrying nearly a half million containers stuffed full of products, including holiday toys and other non-essential items, reportedly are parked in the ocean outside Los Angeles. Apparently, there is some sort of traffic jam at the port.
Some observers contend product delivery problems will continue for months because there are not enough truck drivers to quickly haul away all containers to their final destinations. Apparently, there is some sort of truck driver shortage.
News media interviews of merchants reveal worries about empty shelves during this holiday season. Oh no, how could this happen – empty shelves during the dizzyingly frenetic holiday buying season – they ask. These and other money-making questions swirl. The finger pointing for blame has begun.
Among the questions we should ask is: How much of this non-essential stuff do we even want, particularly given pressing climate change issues?
Much of this non-essential stuff is likely not recyclable given our current technologies. After a couple years, much of this stuff is going to likely end up in some trash heap.
Among the questions we should ask are: What is the cost to our climate change goals to produce and move all this non-essential stuff across the oceans and roadways? How much oil, gas, coal, and other fossil fuels are being burned to manufacture and transport all this non-essential stuff?
The USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration reports the massive container ship called the Benjamin Franklin carries about 4.5 million gallons of fuel when traversing the oceans. Although most cargo container ships are smaller, there are thousands of very large cargo container ships. Collectively, these enormous ocean-faring vessels burn many millions of gallons of fossil fuels every day.
Among the questions we must ask is: Why are too few acknowledging that our insatiable urge for more consumerism and consumption of non-essential items is contributing to climate change?
Diana Ivanova, et al., in an article published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, write: “We highlight the importance of environmental pressure arising from households with their consumption contributing to more than 60% of global GHG emissions … Elasticities suggest a robust and significant relationship between households’ expenditure and their environmental impacts, driven by a rising demand of nonprimary consumption items.”
A recent United Nations study found “Around two-thirds of global emissions are linked to private households, when using consumption-based accounting. Developed nations, in particular the wealthy, bear greatest responsibility.”
Undeniably, USA residents are among those consuming too much non-essential stuff. At least half the people I know park their cars in the driveway because their garages are full of stuff. Storage locker rental companies are popping up all over the country, in part, because folks have run out of storage space in their garages, basements, and attics.
When – by what date certain – will we heed the United Nation’s warning: “Consumption habits must change – not just to reduce climate change, but to address nature loss and pollution”?