StoryOfStuff – Part 5

Continued from part 4

CONSUMPTION: “Golden arrow” “heart of the system, the engine that drives it.
“Protecting this arrow (of consumption) has become the top priority for (government and corporations).”
After 9/11 President Bush told US to shop.
The economy had been hurt. It was not the only thing he said. Bush said many things during that time, among them he dealt with the serious blow to our economy. He was standing well in his position with the bully-pulpit to minimize the effect the attacks had on us. The goal of the terrorists was to cripple our nation in as many ways possible, including economically. To address this specific threat Bush did make statements encouraging us to not sit tight and hunker down. If the economy took a hard hit from people acting in fear, people would have lost their jobs, lost money, experienced much more damage than we actually did. This was not a cold-calculated attempt to shore up his ‘buddies’ in business, this was Bush’s way to keep Americans acting from a position of strength.
Percentage of resources still in use 6 months after purchase: 1%
99% trashed within 6 monthsHow much of this is packaging? Terrible packaging, wasteful. Can the government do better? They can’t design a simple tax system. What do you think their packaging would look like? Once again, the private citizen using the resources available to them can change this. In the news just today Amazon.com reports they are redesigning packaging and encouraging other companies to do the same to minimize waste and improve the user experience with packaging in response to one person’s ‘encouragement’. It’s not that this isn’t a problem, it’s just the implied solution is far from the best.
“It didn’t just happen. It was designed.”
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” Victor Lebow, 1955
This is idolatry to a Christian who participates to the extent people such as Lebow desire or prescribe. That is undeniable. But it is wisdom to participate to the extent God allows us, for in our participation we expand the gifts God has given us (Parable of the Talents), benefit others through the melding and expansion of each others resources, and enable ourselves to support ministries which further His work on this earth.
Purpose of the economy is to create more consumer goods – NOT: Health care, Education, Safe transportation, Sustainability, Justice. Governments have a God-given responsibility to apply Justice. We ourselves, as individuals and together as an independent society have the opportunity to meet all the other needs through the strength of the economy. If there was not this vehicle for spurring innovation and creating wealth, how would any development and growth occur in any of these other categories?
Planned obsolescense: “Planned for the dump” OK for smaller things, packaging. Now bigger stuff too.Solution? Research and buy more reliable stuff. I purchase a quintessential toss-away technology item, a portable CD player, 10 years ago. I paid $150, which is significantly more than people pay on average for such devices. However, mine is still running. My cost is therefore only $10 per year. A good price. And no extra junk for those 10 years from disposing of cheaper products. It’s not like I’ve not abused the device, it’s followed me to work and school in my pockets, walking, on the bus, bicycling, etc… It’s just better. Armed with the extensive knowledge we have today, we are more able than ever to verify products reliability. All this ability is because of the capitalist system which encourages innovation.
Percieved obsolescence: “Convinces us to throw away stuff that is still perfectly useful”
Not keeping up with the times.
“It’s to keep us buying new shoes”
We are allowing ourselves to be controlled and defined by media. There is nothing which says we must act a certain way as defined by the media, there is just our decision to allow such things control in our lives. If we allow ourselves to be controlled, we are not victims, we are weak but nevertheless guilty independent moral agents.

National happiness peaked in 1950s (post war). Why? – Because we were all working, on a post-war high. Industry was thriving. Poor people 20 years previously were now part of the exploding middle class. More people were going to school and getting college degrees than ever before. All because of the incredible wealth ingenuity and innovation supported by a free-market, capitalist system which had just vanquished a strong enemy in the form of Fascist Nazi Germany.

DISPOSAL: Trash – 4.5 pounds each day per person

Dumped in landfill or burned and dumpedBurning trash was the main power generation method in Woodland, CA. It may not be cleanest, but it does use the the output in a creative and productive manner.

Climate change: incineration, super toxins, Dioxin.Climate change does not enjoy the scientific consensus many would like it to. After the UN report on climate change came out, several scientists sued to have their names removed from its list of endorsers, claiming they’d been misled in the content of the report. The climate change models popularized by Al Gore are suspect at the very best, with causation and correlation confused and data manipulated in ways that ought not be in serious scientific pursuits. Further, the aims and goals of many of those claiming catastrophic global warming are more damaging to society than they are helping to global climate change.

Recycling helpsRecycling is not energy effective. It takes more energy to recycle paper and plastic than it does to make more and new. Not that recycling is bad, it just takes a wealthy society to support an effective recycling system.

Core of the problems? The solutions proposed in so many of these arguments engaged the government in taking over huge sections of private industry in an attempt to make it all work in some happy circle. Individuals building corporations to provide creative and effective solutions or convincing other corporations to clean up their acts is more effective and do not have the same crippling effect on the economy and devastation on people’s lives as the government intrusion.

Labor rights, blocking landfills and incinerators, taking back government (of the people by the people). How do labor rights get in here? This is not a list of solutions, it’s a laundry list of the speaker’s favorite pet socio-political projects. Taking back government is an excellent course of action, one I can definitely sign on to. But I think her ideas and my ideas of what that government ought to do are very different and mutually irreconcilable. Instead, make government small and increase the ability of people to convince corporations to act responsibly. At the same time remove the protections from people who do try to convince those corporations so that frivilous suits over pointless and wasteful stupidities will be deterred from their damaging and greedy quests.

“Chuck the throw-away mindset”Excellent idea. All for this one.
“Local living economies”Read: “Master-planned communities” Who plans those communities? Allowing communities to grow naturally is better. Zoning laws needlessly restrict the growth of communities along the predetermined lines preferred by city planners.

People created problem, people have to create solution. – But can we? All these problems are symptoms of a single, much larger problem: human sin. And we are unable to resolve it. We do what we can as part of our changed and redeemed natures as Christians to fix problems as we can with the first goal of bringing others in from the dark of sin and into the light of Christ.

Continue reading in part 6

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