Harming Ourselves and the Planet?

Updated | Published

Discussion on the science and research on how the rate of continued overconsumption by individuals and our culture at large, is damaging ourselves and the planet.

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Is our tendency for overconsumption damaging ourselves and our planet?

Harming Ourselves and the Planet?

CDC Statistics

According to the CDC’S National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 6 in 10 American adults currently suffer from a chronic disease, while a further 4 in 10 have multiple chronic conditions. Furthermore, the treatment of chronic disease and mental health conditions accounts for 90% of the nation’s $3.5 trillion annual health care expenditures. Among these conditions are heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cancer, the chief causes of which are lifestyle choices such as poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and smoking.


Recent data shows that our tendency for overconsumption – individually and collectively – is taking a toll not only on our health but that of the planet’s health, as well. By now, most of us serving in health care, are aware that overconsumption of food, alcohol, drugs, and debt, along with an under consumption of meaningful physical activity, rest and a balanced work-life are the main contributors to the numbers we see from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Life-Style Changes Needed

The national pattern of overconsumption is also evident in the toll which our ambition for a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” variety of affluence has taken on the environment. In a newly released paper from the University of New South Wales in Australia, researchers came to the conclusion that “technology will only get us so far when working towards sustainability - we need far-reaching lifestyle changes and different economic paradigms.”

According to lead author, Professor Tommy Wiedmann, "Recent scientists' warnings have done a great job at describing the many perils our natural world is facing through crises in climate, biodiversity, and food systems, to name but a few. However, none of these warnings has explicitly considered the role of growth-oriented economies and the pursuit of affluence…”


"The key conclusion from our review is that we cannot rely on technology alone to solve existential environmental problems… but that we also have to change our affluent lifestyles and reduce overconsumption, in combination with structural change."

The researchers point out the alarming fact that, over the past 40 years, global wealth growth has outpaced any gains from new technologies in terms of the impacts of overconsumption to our environment and to our overall health. “Technology can help us to consume more efficiently, I.e. to save energy and resources,” Wiedmann says, “but these technological improvements cannot keep pace with our ever-increasing levels of consumption."

Wealth and Affluence

This overconsumption is spurred in part by the idea, central to our economic system, that wealth and affluence is an inherent good and something we should all aspire to. This, says co-author Julia Steinberger, is “actually dangerous and leads to planetary-scale destruction.” The notion that economic growth, even if done in a “sustainable way”, is an unqualified positive need to be reevaluated in light of the evidence, according to Professor Wiedmann. "As long as there is growth - both economically and in population - technology cannot keep up with reducing impacts, the overall environmental impacts with only increase.”

The current chronic disease epidemic we are facing in this country and the wider environmental crisis stem from shared individual and collective behaviors, influenced by cultural and economic models which encourage what some have termed “mindless consumerism”. The push for a life of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams”, and the stresses incurred in trying to achieve it, have left many with a sense of unfulfillment and emptiness as they strive to keep up with the Joneses.

Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

However, recent events give a sense of cautious optimism. One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the opportunity to pause and get off the “hamster wheel”. Being home with family has helped many to simplify and put into perspective what is important in life. Growing awareness has also led to increased calls for policies to alleviate economic and social inequality, as well as increase environmental safeguards. Hopefully, this signals a wider awakening into a true big picture perspective of how everything is truly connected to everything.


Chronic Diseases in America

Lifestyle changes and reducing overconsumption could help address environmental crises

Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD, is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health, and a health care visionary who pioneered the integration of Whole Health and Whole Person Healthcare within medical and holistic health organizations. Georgianna is one of only six Florence Nightingale Scholars in the U.S., an MNA award-winning Nurse Advocate and widely published Integrative Health expert and healthcare provider. Named “Best Integrative Healthcare Practitioner” in Boston, for 20 years she hosted the nationally syndicated, regionally Emmy nominated women’s TV programming, Woman-to-Woman®. She is currently the host of iHeart radio’s Living above the Drama which is heard globally, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling award-winning author. She has been a regular contributor/writer for the Huffington Post, Dr. Oz’s Share Care, Daily Strength and other national blogs.

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3 Comment(s)

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

Recent data?😆

That's hilarious. They needed a new study to prove what is as obvious as the nose on my face?

THAT is funny!😂

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Hello Emergent -
Good point, but yes, sadly, unless there is "data" and studies that confirm the obvious, many people do not want to believe that our hunger for more and more of anything - everything is killing us
and our planet.

For me one, of the shockers has been watching the amount of plastic that is harvested from the ocean - harming and killing its inhabitants and hearing people say - "oh, that can't be true, re-cycling takes care of that."

Thanks for your comment - and your service as a nurse.
Stay safe -
Kind regards,


Has 3 years experience.

I have been a minimalist for the past 10 years buying only what I need but high quality items ( they last longer). My aunt ,on the other hand, is a hoarder. I can't even visit her home because it is stressful to me!

Do you agree that overpopulation and destruction of the rainforests are having a great impact on our planet? How about pollution from developing countries with no clean air standards?

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Hello Juniper,

Thank you for your comment. Yes, our rain forests are vital components of the larger, global eco-system. The Rainforest Alliance has this to say about them:

"Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and producing oxygen, upon which all animals depend for survival. Rainforests also stabilize climate, house incredible amounts of plants and wildlife, and produce nourishing rainfall all around the planet."

World cultures are impacting almost all aspects of nature, which is having its cumulative effects and negatively effecting the collective "us." The sci-fi movies of humans living under large bubbles with synthetic air, may not be fiction but at some point the future of our planet!

Hoarding is a serious, difficult condition. Psychology Today has this to say about hoarding:

"Without exception, hoarding is accompanied by varying levels of anxiety and, often, depression as well. Neuroimaging studies have revealed peculiar commonalities among hoarders including severe emotional attachment to inanimate objects and extreme anxiety when making decisions.

Hoarding both relieves anxiety and generates it. The more hoarders accumulate, the more insulated they feel from the world and its dangers. But of course, the more they accumulate, the more isolated they become from the outside world, including family and friends. Even the thought of discarding or cleaning out hoarded items produces extreme feelings of panic and discomfort."

Your aunt, like mpost hoarders, may be looking to create a sense of insulation and safety for herself. No doubt that life can be hard for
people, on many levels and for many reasons.

Thanks again for sharing and your minimalism - which helps all of us - and the planet!

Kind regards,