Private consumption in Mexico registered a contraction of 11 percent at an annual rate in 2020, based on original figures, its largest drop since data has been available, informed this Friday by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi). This represented a historic low for the Monthly Indicator of Private Consumption in the Domestic Market (IMCPMI), that is, since 1993, caused by measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Moreover, it is its first drop after ten consecutive years of increases. This result surpassed the drop in 2009 when it fell 6 percent, and that of 1995, when it fell 4.8 percent. This indicator measures the behavior of spending by the country's resident households on consumer goods and services, both of domestic and imported origin, although purchases of homes or valuables are excluded.

Domestic consumers showed a preference for domestic over imported goods. Consumption of imported goods fell 15.1 percent last year, its largest contraction since 2009 when it dropped 17.4 percent. On a disaggregated basis, of total imported goods, the purchase of semi-durable goods showed an annual decrease of 16 percent, based on original figures; durable goods fell 27 percent, and non-durable goods advanced 3.8 percent.

Consumption of domestic products fell by 10.5 percent at an annual rate during 2020. This represented its steepest drop since data has been available. In the interior, demand for domestic goods decreased 6.6 percent, ending ten consecutive years of gains. Semi-durable consumer goods showed a 26.1 percent decline, consumption of non-durable goods fell 1.6 percent, and durable goods 'slipped' 15.3 percent, in original figures. In the case of services demand, it fell 14.1 percent in 2020, its deepest drop since data has been available.

Adequate consumption: a key to human survival

The world's human population has already surpassed 7 billion people. This gigantic figure makes us wonder if the time will come when the number of human beings will exceed the capacity of the planet, enormous but with limited resources, to sustain us. Possibly this will happen, but we have not yet found this limit, and doing so sooner or later depends on a fundamental circumstance: the consumption of resources.

It is clear that all human beings and other living beings on the planet require food, energy, and water to grow and live. In the case of humans, the amount of resources that each of us uses depends on our lifestyle. We may think that there is a lack of resources when we observe the large number of people living in extreme poverty, even suffering from hunger; but, when we analyze the situation a little more closely, it is easy to realize that the main problem is their inequitable distribution.

Of course, if there continue to be sectors of the population, mainly in "developed" countries, in which overconsumption and abuse of natural resources are daily practices, we will quickly reach a situation in which the planet cannot sustain the human population and we will be facing a catastrophe, since the damage caused may take a long time to recover or may be irrecoverable.

The environmental impact of each human being depends on his or her level of consumption of natural resources and production of waste.

Let us remember that in order to produce everything that is consumed, the land surface is used and contaminated with waste, thus reducing the surface area of forests, prairies, deserts, mangroves, reefs, jungles, and affecting the world's seas, lakes, and rivers. In recent decades, much more emphasis has been placed on birth control than on consumption control; thus, in the last 60 years, the number of children per woman dropped from 6 to 2.5, but there has been no reduction in the problem of overconsumption.

Although it is true that less polluting modes and techniques of production can achieve more resources, these will continue to be insufficient and there will continue to be a large number of people without access to them if consumption is not rationalized in the sectors of the population that waste them. It is undoubtedly important to continue with efforts in terms of birth planning, through education, respecting people's right to reproductive rights, and giving women control over their bodies. But it is equally or even more important to focus efforts on the problem of overconsumption and the lack of resources in huge sectors of humanity.

Linked to the problem of consumption is the problem of waste. It is impossible not to produce waste, but it is important to understand that the more we consume, the more waste we produce. It is not only important to consider the quantity, but also the quality of what is consumed, which is a determining factor in the type of waste produced. We must bear in mind that much of the waste generated by our consumption is not seen by us, since it is produced during the production and transportation processes, but it nevertheless affects us seriously and, what is worse, it affects everyone, and not only in our immediate environment.

Much waste goes into the water, air, or soils in the form of chemicals that we do not see and others form what we commonly call garbage. A lot of garbage is generated in food supply centers, factories, restaurants, stores, soccer fields, parks, and other places, among which are, importantly, our homes, workplace, or school.