Since the rise of Covid-19, the world has become more attentive to the impact of our daily consumption habits. Images of smog-free air and clear blue rivers have been passed around the internet as the world stands in awe of the monthslong transformation that has occurred in our environment. As an increased number of people are remaining home as opposed to commuting to and from work each day, we have seen the impact that each person can make day by day on the climate crises we continue to face.
As the fight to end this global pandemic continues, so does the fight to end climate change. As our consumption patterns have faced an unexpected turn, we are presented with an opportunity to reflect upon how we as individuals contribute to the global climate crises and more specifically the climate crises occurrence in the global south.
The Global South is a term that is in direct relation with the term Developing Nations as the Global North can be used interchangeably with Developed Nations. The Global South has been directly impacted by the consumption habits that occur in the Global North for decades. As the fast fashion industry and commercial farming have come to the forefront of markets in the Global North, we rely heavily on Global South for increased production often at a very low cost. As an individual living in the United States, the majority of items that I consume on a day to day basis come from the Global South. Whether it’s a T-shirt from Bangladesh, a banana from Chile or oil from Nigeria, the items I utilize every day are often at the expense of wage laborers in foreign countries. You’re probably asking yourself why does this matter? And what does this have anything to do with the recent development of Covid-19?
First, I want to address what this truly has to do with the current state of the global pandemic. As Covid-19 continues to affect our social lives, our jobs and our families, it is also having a tremendous impact on the availability and accessibility of various goods. The food system in the Global North has become greatly dependent on large commercialized farming, either within the United States or within various nations of the Global South. As the pandemic is affecting the stock market and the economy, it is also becoming increasingly difficult for commercial farms to operate at their regular capacity due to the impact Covid-19 is having on the job force. As large commercial farms are having difficulties producing at optimal levels, consumers are now reaping the consequences. The cost and availability of items such as meat, eggs, toilet paper and produce have changed drastically as the demand for these goods continues to rise. The Global North is now experiencing the negative side effects of relying on a monopolized food system and we as consumers have the ability to change this.
In fact, we have the responsibility to change this.
About a month after the pandemic began to affect my life here in North Carolina, I began to wonder how my choices extend far beyond the United States. I tracked nearly everything I consumed for a week and where it came from. I found a few different things during this experiment. First off, about 90 percent of the items or food that I consume daily come from the Global South. Second, I realized that for so many products, (most of which were various packaged food items such as soup or canned veggies) it was nearly impossible to find where the ingredients were sourced. As consumers, we are far too often left in the dark about the origins of the products we consume. As this global pandemic continues to affect people’s lives and the things we consume, I urge you to keep track of your consumption habits for one week (or one day even). Where do your clothes, your phones, your car, your TV and even your food come from? By tracking your consumption patterns, I believe that you, as a consumer, will gain much more than just knowledge. You will gain autonomy and agency over your life and the items you rely on. By growing your own food, shopping for produce locally, buying clothes made in the United States or second hand, and utilizing the local resources that are available to you, you can not only make a positive change for the environment but you can become an active contributor to stimulating local communities, organizations and farmers. It is through our simple day to day actions and decisions that we can begin to fight the climate crises as one collective entity.
Let’s begin to make a change; we are in this together.