Garbage can save the world.
Some people don’t want to know about problems in the world. A guy just told me that he disconnected the satellite and no longer watches any news. Good idea if you don’t care about how you may be the reason that we have such stressful news. Please consider the possibility that if you and I and many others do our share, the world could be a better place.
There are big problems that face us now and must be dealt with. Some people are working on it but not nearly enough. Instead of fighting for more gun controls people should fight against nuclear weapons. We can’t survive a nuclear war. Therefore, nuclear disarmament is a must. We also can’t rebuild a civilization if ours will be destroyed by a catastrophic Climate Change. We barely manage to deal with the changes that are already happening. Again, many millions of people are actively trying to make a change, but there are many others who block their efforts with economic arguments. It is hard to tell people to change what is obviously working, especially if the solution requires immediate sacrifice mostly for future benefits. Yet we all like to have insurance just in case. Let me tell you, my friends, insurance won't help.
Overall I see our society advancing to its betterment by leaps and bounds, at least where people have a say about their future. The more democratic countries have better living conditions, longer life expectancy, more educated populations and better healthcare in all but one. Those are also the countries where a large majority speak up against looming dangers like Nuclear arms and destructive pollution. Our main problem is the problem of the rich. Rich is what half of the world calls us. We have too much, use too much and have to spend a significant amount of our resources on defending our wealth. We are the throw-away societies.
The UN commissions all kinds of studies that prove how much food is wasted, how it could be used and how hunger can be defeated. I don’t wish to give numbers and waste a lot of writing space on footnotes but I can say the following. We are able to produce all the food the world needs without any of us giving up whatever we need. Even at current rate of production hunger can be eliminated if we only don’t throw away 45% of all the food that we produce. My family and I throw away food and so probably we all do. That is a problem, but not the main problem.
The main issue is that the waste here is a business decision. Food production is an industry governed by predatory Capitalism. Not the good kind of Capitalism that uses competition to drive people towards working harder and smarter, but the kind that goes after the jugular for world domination. The kind of Capitalism that is displayed openly now by the US demanding a new NAFTA deal. But, that is not the focus of this column.
Throw away society was coined, I believe, in a Time Magazine in 1945 before we even began the age of plastics. Look at where we are now. Just consider the amount of material and labor that is in packaging. Now consider the life expectancy of products. All of what we buy is manufactured with an end of life expectancy and new products to replace it, (not repair) are made. My grandparents bought shoes from a shoemaker and had them repaired. How often do you buy shoes this days?
Now let's consider the single-use products that we make so cheap to save on labor for cleaning and reusing them. The kind of throwaway products that seem harmless if we don’t consider the energy pollution required to produce them and the issues facing their disposal. You probably saw the video with the many miles of garbage accumulated in the oceans.
Another extremely wasteful industry is the fashion industry and please include home fashions in the equation. While a large portion of humanity are lucky to have the clothes or utensils necessary for life, we replace next to new items on a seasonal basis. Most of my friends remodel their homes every five years and in some cases it is not the only home they have.
Consider what you see in a public washroom. Notice how many people use by far more soap, paper towels and heated water than what is needed. Now turn your mind's eye to our favorite subject oil and gas. We need both to survive but how much do we really need.
If we reduce our 4.5 tonnes of garbage per year, the 25% of food thrown out and reduce turn over of our wearable fashions; we can make a great impact. If we use energy wisely we may see reduced fires in BC and California, less floods all over the world and a return of the weather from some years ago. This and reduced wars in the middle east, reduced military built up all over and perhaps more jobs.
Strangely enough, the throwaway culture taught us to throw away people mostly in favor of making more money and buying more so we have more to throw away. Our family relationships weakened, less intergenerational interdependence and definitely no empathy whatsoever for others who must have a way to make a living, just like we do. Predatory Capitalism is all about me or mine. Within the family, the community, country, race, all that we consider and expect others to consider is personal gain. It wasn’t always like that as some of us older folks clearly still remember.
When I was young, parents and kids helped each other, business owners cared about their employees and people didn’t mind paying a little more so all will be fed. This could return if we change our mindset. I cared more about my dog than a Corporation cares about laying off a thousand employees to increase the shareholder's dividends.