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Sunday, October 18, 2015

There Won't Always be More Stuff

I got into a "discussion" -- turned into a bit of a pissing contest, though, it seemed -- on a friend's Facebook post recently. I stated my position on bottled water (none, period) and was called to task by another poster who noted how necessary it was "in emergencies." I allowed as how, maybe, that was ok, but for years Red Cross and other agencies got along just fine and supplied emergency water without the wasteful and now ubiquitous containers.

Later in the discussion, I mentioned that I had all but eliminated plastic packaging in my shopping and was working to rid my home of plastic, though I was frustrated by the inability to recycle broken or otherwise unusable plastic items since the codes are only stamped on containers.

My nemesis all but called me a hypocrite and Luddite because "everything is made using plastic" somewhere along the line, much recycled plastic is just shipped to China to be buried and I was doubtless using a plastic keyboard. Which, I will admit I am. I would honestly love to have one made of a more natural material, IF it were made in a manner that would allow it to last at least as long as my electric typewriter, which I got as a high school graduation present and DID manage to wear out (multiple keys developed metal fatigue) after about 15 years of use. Keyboards, it seems, fail after far fewer years... and that is even with my having an old school tech in the house who is able to disassemble and clean them on a regular basis.

I finally opted out of the Facebook "discussion." I don't need extra frustration in my life. However it brought to mind several thoughts.

1. We all need to consider "appropriate technology" and "most appropriate materials" for all of the things we buy, make and do. Just because it's newer, less expensive, faster, brighter colored or such does not mean we need it. In my mind, the "most appropriate" materials are those that can be easily and efficiently re-used. I use only natural materials for clothing, for example, because when worn beyond usefulness, most often they can be re-purposed as rags. Sometimes the most appropriate materials are those than will decompose.

But even more than that, I think, many of us suffer from the unperceived delusion that "there will always be more stuff" as if stuff actually grew on trees. I wonder, since I have only American attitudes to observe, if this is not somehow an extension of manifest destiny. There was, for a good part of the formative years of our country, "always more land to the west" to explore, and exploit. But like the country, which has filled the land from border to border and has no land over the horizon to expand into, our sources for "stuff" are limited. Even stuff that does, essentially, grow on, or like, trees must be considered finite, for as the population on the earth expands, the resources available to produce crops like wood, hemp, food and even bio-fuels will not only not expand, but likely will shrink.

We cannot continue thinking that "there will always be" more raw materials from which to make plastic, be it for containers or for making "stuff.". We cannot continue thinking that "there will always be" more aluminum or iron to be mined to make cans, or cars or pots and pans.

Use it UP
Wear it OUT
Make it DO
because while maybe YOU won't have to... eventually your progeny will otherwise have to
DO WITHOUT!