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The World Gone MAD with Over-consumption
July 8, 2000

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Behind Hong Kong's futuristic skyline is a city which tells us to buy, buy, buy
Visions of Central Hong Kong skyscrapers faded away as I dove into its intricate maze of underground subways. From platform number 2 I transferred to the blue line guided by a state-of-the-art navigation system outlining a map of the train's route, which also conveniently flashed to alert passengers once it arrived to each stop. The commuter train, Hong Kong's newest line, took me on a trip into the future. The train station looked like a Star Trek set with sleek chrome fixtures and glass walls that automatically slid open once the train arrived like a bullet in the circular tunnel track.

Advertisements were not billboard posters but video screens, some with holographic images that made products look like they were just behind the glass. Once inside we were off in a flash. Out of the window to the left was green hillside rolling back as far as the eye could see. To the right, Christian cemetery's lined the mountain overlooking the sea. The railway train headed to the airport was equally as dynamic and futuristic as the train I was on. It had individual TV monitors on the back of each seat playing episodes of Seinfeld, and thanking guests for visiting Hong Kong. Yes, everything about this place is modern, fast-paced and cutting edge.

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The beautiful lush mountains of this tropical region are being quickly leveled in the name of progress and success
Hong Kong's cosmopolitan setting was very familiar in fact. It was much like my hometown, Los Angeles, or any other big city we know. I wondered what it is that enables places miles and miles away, speaking different languages, in different countries to seem so much alike. The answer was all around me. McDonald's golden arches glowing in the distance, Cindy Crawford smiling down from a billboard, and stores for every name-brand of clothing you could think of displayed labels and logos that are permanently fixed in my memory banks - all the luxuries of home were at my finger tips and everyone else's too.

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Name brands like Armani, Nautica and Nike boost our egos. Why is that?
As I emerged from the subway into a clutter of people and packages. I wondered how people could afford to live here. My new friend, Freddy, a native born on a neighboring island explained that everyone is so busy because they must work hard to keep a roof over their heads. The population is booming and the high-rise buildings that seem to go up daily are quickly filled, which makes every square inch of land in Hong Kong that much more valuable. He pays almost $1000.00 a month for his apartment and explained that that's the average cost for a middle class Hong Kong family.

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We didn't become friends because somebody's name was on our clothing
It was amidst all the hustle that I remembered an article I read not too long ago for International Buy Nothing Day. It didn't understand why such a day was necessary but it was all becoming much more clear. Hong Kong can be described as a big shopping mall. Every area is dedicated to consumers and, boy, do they consume! But the fact of the matter is that Hong Kong, like I said, is much like the US, and most other developed or Westernized nations; that's what made me feel so at home. Consumerism, in America or Hong Kong, is a social and economic creed that encourages us to aspire to want things and advertising is the glue that makes it all stick.


Intricate - complicated
Cosmopolitan - composed of elements from all around the world
Consumerism - preoccupation of buying goods
Creed - a belief
Subliminal - meaning that effects your subconscious

The fact that I associate golden arches with McDonalds, a swoosh with Nike or a catchy jingle to any number of products says that their is power in advertising. Advertising is a multibillion dollar industry world-wide, with one main job - pushing product information in front of an audience and even to manipulate the consumers' needs and desires. This then leads to over consumption by causing people to feel unfulfilled with what they have. Subliminal messages play with many personal insecurities, manipulating people into buying more.

Related Links (general site about hong kong) (virtual tour of hong kong with pics, sound bytes/history, live cams)

In a sense 'consuming' fulfills personal needs: the need to belong, the need for variety in life, the need to control your personal environment and your work. But in a world of limited resources we have to really examine the cost and the consequences of our "Buy, buy buy mentality."

Take a look around your house. Have you ever wondered why we sometimes end up with products that we have no use for, or have the desire for something which already adequately does the job? Why do we need to have constant turnover of cars, larger televisions and computers, more and more clothes and shoes. Why do we need the useless items that are sold via 800 phone numbers on infomercial ads? Where do these desires come from and how does this affect our world on a global scale?

Your Turn!!!

What goods can you live without? List some of the items people definitely don't need that are just adding to the consumer mentality.

Share your thoughts
and see what others wrote!

We the richest fifth of the world's population already consume more than our fair share of the world's resources. The USA alone, with only 6% of the world's population, consumes 30% of its resources. 20% of the world's population consumes over 70% of its material resources, and owns over 80% of its wealth. In a world of limited resources, a system that advocates an ever-increasing level of consumption, and equates such consumption with personal well-being, economic progress and social fulfillment, is a recipe for ecological disaster.

Changing our spending habits does not mean rejecting our basic needs, our technology, our stylishness, or our quality of life. It does mean taking responsibility for our drain on the environment and realizing that our individual consumption does have a significant impact on the earth's ecology and natural resources. So have your own "BUY NOTHING DAY," and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Buy in bulk, it uses less packaging and therefore creates less waste. Be mindful of the affects of advertising and the tricky ways they entice you to spend your money. Remember their job is to get you to buy more. But we now know the real expense. Jasmine


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Abeja - Bicycling through Asia: the Y2K Experience
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