“On many measures, policies, actions, and technologies to shape consumption appear to be “improving” environmental management. But too often the measures are close-up snapshots that cut out a much bigger, more complex, global picture of crisis. One common set of measures zooms in on consumer use of a product. Here, it is easy to and progress: simply compare the energy needs of a refrigerator or microwave or TV from the 1970s with a 2010 model. Another common set of measures zeros in on national consumption patterns. Here it is harder to and positive trends. Still, many exist—from higher recycling rates to more green buildings—for those who are looking for signs that capitalist economies are capable of shifting toward some form of sustainability.
Yet all of these measures need to be put into the context of a rising global population and rising per capita consumption in a globalized capitalist economy, a system that creates incentives — indeed, makes it imperative — for states and companies to “externalize externalities” beyond the borders of those who are actually doing most of the consuming. The challenge for environmentalists and policymakers is therefore about much more than influencing “consumers” — much of what is happening globally is beyond their control. Rather, it is about transforming a global system that is driving unsustainable production, much of which is increasingly masking itself as sustainable consumption. Fundamentally, this means that any move toward sustainable consumption will require much better full cost accounting and more equitable distribution of income: locally, nationally, and globally.”
Dauvergne, Peter. “The Problem of Consumption.” Global Environmental Politics, Volume 10, Number 2, May 2010, pp. 1-10 (Article)