When interrogating global issues for sustainable livelihoods, consumerism and environmental sustainability define the path for human survival and sustainable development. This is not that other factors are not critical but these provide the life-lines and arteries of human survival, socially, economically, culturally and religiously.
By Peter Makwanya
As such, this discussion attempts to weigh issues by giving a comparative analysis of the two pillars in order to come up with their striking and resemblance features.
Consumer education is more of conscientising the people about their commercial and business rights, buying behaviours and knowledge of food products, while climate literacy is about empowering people to be conscious of their environmental rights, stewardship, awareness and consciousness.
Also considering the blistering pace at which technological and industrial development is accelerating at, so are the discourses bordering these developments. In consumer education, the inherent discourses are now bordering on e-commerce while in environmental literacy, there is a mushrooming of green discourses and eco-conscious language.
The ideas behind these developments are not aimed at sufficiently confusing people but to empower them with current and sustainable ideas and terms, so that they stay relevant and become compliant in the 21st Century era. All the new waves of discipline-specific vocabularies currently dominating the markets and environmental landscapes will go a long way in revolutionising and transforming the way people shop, with lots of choices at their disposal together with the way people interact with their immediate environment for transforming their livelihoods.
While consumer rights and education are aimed at protecting the consumer, as one and the most important stakeholder, first and foremost, environmental literacy focuses on empowering people with sustainable knowledge of protecting their environment. The reason being that the world becomes a safer place to grow and process foods and services, so that the people have adequate knowledge of the food they grow, buy and eat, thereby making informed and sustainable choices.
For consumers, e-commerce entails, people being able to buy anything from clothes, confectionaries, music, beverages, or electrical gadgets, among other things, especially online. The online platforms have become more versatile and interactive in such a way that buying tickets for whatever event, booking for transport, hotel or accommodation, can all be done online in the split of a second. It is also the desire to have the above that has transformed and shaped human behaviours and e-commerce, the same way environmental literacies have also shaped human behaviours and the way people handle the environment through green discourse and green-technologies.
From the consumer stable, issues of risk behaviours inherent in underground food manufacturing practices in some countries of the world, need to be arrested through stringent environmental protection laws, aimed at protecting and safeguarding the consumer. Environmental regulations in the form of climate change literacy are enough motivational tools aimed at appeasing the consumer and consolidate their buying behaviours and attitudes.
Food handling and production practices are all central to consumerism and environmental sustainability. We have read of stories on social media about how uncouth some underground food processing concerns have become, from the use of banned substances to process their food to unholy practices of producing some foods and beverages that are not only a health hazard to the people but to the environment as well. Therefore, what is grown or processed sustainably from the environment is also good for the consumer. If food is produced and processed using unscrupulous means, then people are likely to be affected through the value chain. People are what they are from the food that they eat and the environment that the food is produced.
The aspect of behavioural change is also a common feature in climate change protection, where the human hand should not be eco-freaky or destructive in nature. Also in terms of the macro-impacts of a society’s collective micro-decisions from the consumer perspectives, the same applies to the environmental perspective where the people should be locally confined but should act global, otherwise described as glocal.
In as much as we would want to put everything in moderation, no matter how much consumers or environmentalists would want to appear sustainably compliant, economic considerations may also place either a positive or negative impact, with regard to e-commerce, thereby influencing behavioural change or practices. In this regard both the consumer platforms and environmental landscapes, have significant challenges bordering on anxiety and uncertainties.
In terms of consumer education issues and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goal number 12 (responsible consumption and production) is the most appropriate. Goals 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being), 6 (clean-water and sanitation) are also closely related and highly influence each other. These stated goals, among others, are also climate and environmentally compliant and relevant.
Despite being threatened by climate change, education and literacy are the only change agents set to appeal favourably and harmonise consumer education as well. It is through sustainable education that consumers and environmentalists alike, have critical roles to play in shaping their lifestyles. On the other hand, learning institutions are vital in the sense that they disseminate knowledge for consumers and environmentalists to have a safer place to live. When both consumers and environmentalists are sufficiently empowered, they make informed decisions and choices, which is good for sustainable development.
Consumer and environmental education, both instil the element of stewardship of living and that of managing the environment. From the consumer perspective, a safe planet is the one which is environmentally-friendly full of products that are certified to comply to environmental laws and regulations, such as ozone friendly, among a host of others.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org