Tuesday, September 6, 2011

endless growth

I'm on a bit of an anti-waste rant at the moment. Back to school time brings it out in me ... all the 'new editions' of school books that only have a few updated pictures or whatever, which means that expensive school books must be bought new rather than passed on or sold for second hand use.

I hate waste. On my mother's side I come from a farming background - and on a farm everything is put to use. Nothing is thrown away thoughtlessly ... it is recycled and then recycled again. It has to be coming apart at the seems and completely beyond repair before it's finally dumped. And even then the 'junk' may have a use: the old bits of wood, burned for fuel; old horse-drawn farm implements used to block a gap in a ditch; and old bath used as a water trough down the field.

And my father was a car mechanic. His garage was neatly filled with all kinds of old bits of stuff - nails, screws, gaskets, whatever - that he'd stripped off something else and stored for future use. It was a rare day when my dad needed to go off to buy something simple like a nut and bolt.

So I get my distaste for waste 'honest' as they say - from both sides. No wonder I sometimes feel like I'm living in chaos - I feel like getting rid of anything is a moral failing! But it's no bad way to be in a world where there is so much waste. Our consumer society is driven by the premise that we will waste things: that we will throw stuff away rather than fix them.

To keep us coming back, manufacturers even have a term for what they do to make us inclined towards waste: it is called built in obsolescence. Sometimes that means that the object has only a limited life, beyond which it is no longer cost efficient to repair. sometimes that means they are going to come out with a 'new improved model' in a year or so.

It's all dreadful really. We live on a planet with finite resources & we have a model for our economies which is predicated on limitless growth. Clearly the two are not compatible. We're wasting what God has given us for the sake of short term gain. Worse, we're stripping the planet of things that can not be replaced to satisfy the current generation. Effectively we are stealing from our children and our children's children. And what's worse, we know we are doing it.

Often, people look back on history and say of the people they read about: they did terrible things, but nobody knew any better then. We may be the first generation of which history will say: our forefathers really messed things up for us ... and they knew what they were doing and didn't care.

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