The 21st century has brought a critical dilemma into sharp relief: we must stop shopping, and yet we can’t stop shopping.
At the turn of this new millennium, according to the UN, consumption surpassed population as our greatest environmental challenge. When it comes to climate change, species extinction, water depletion, toxic pollution, deforestation and other crises, how much each one of us consumes now matters more than how many of us there are. The average person in a rich country consumes 13 times as much as the average person in a poor one.
For decades now, we’ve witnessed a near-continuous increase in the consumption of every major natural resource. We are using up the planet at a rate 1.7 times faster than it can regenerate. At this rate, by 2050, resource use will have tripled in the 21st century alone.
Fast fashion is one of the worst offenders. We didn’t demand it, but we did take to it with enthusiasm. The number of garments sold each year has approximately doubled in the last 15 years and now exceeds 100 billion.