16 September 2018

Climate Change and Consumerism


Two tropical cyclones are pounding at the humans right now. And few more cyclones are growing around the oceans.
The increased strength and frequency of such cyclones is one of the consequences of global warming. And despite to what climate change deniers say, we are the ones responsible for it.

Our actions, our lifestyle is directly connected to the temperature increase. This means that we will not be able to continue business as usual.
We will have to stop the consumerism culture and turn towards renewable sources and energy.
Life allowed me to see the sad side of the consumerism in action. I live in a quite small rural area. The total population of the whole valley is around 20000. Since there are all year resorts in the area, during the peak of the seasons, population doubles. So at maximum, there are 40000. There is a single Kmart in the area, only shop of that kind on the whole mountain. Meaning, a majority of the population will buy clothing, furniture, and other tidbits in that particular store.
That particular store gets approximately 2.5 trucks per week of goods. You know, those big trucks which usually go annoyingly slow in front of you on a highway. The products that arrive are not all consumables. Beside this Kmart, this area has two quite large grocery shops, two DIY stores, and two chain pharmacies. The average Kmart truck brings towels, pillows, blankets, furniture, decor, stationery, tools, toys, clothing, shoes, sports stuff, outdoor stuff, lotions, shampoos, etc. All the things you would usually find in the average big box. In essence 2000 - 3000 boxes of various crap arrive every week -- 130000 boxes per year.
The mind blowing thing for me is that all those things get sold. The store does not have a vast storage capacity. The backroom is approximately one-quarter of the sale floor space, and it also contains offices, restrooms, and all other supporting rooms. So all the stuff that arrive go on the sales floor and get sold.
This means that at the average of the population capacity each resident would consume 4.34 boxes of different stuff per year. And by boxes, I refer to the boxes that you usually use for moving, you know, on average 27 x 20 x 12 inches or 70 x 50 x 30 cm. Or to put it a bit differently, daily a single resident consume 1248 cubic centimeter of the stuff or an equivalent of 12 x 10 x 10 cm volume. (in inches: 77 cubic inches or 5 x5 x 3 inches of volume) And this does not include groceries. This is the rest. If you fold a t-shirt tight, it will fit into that volume, so this is equivalent of a t-shirt worn once and thrown away.

The situation gets even grimmer when you realize that during the production of each of those products the resulting pollution in industry and transportation process is around 7 times larger. So for each of those tiny daily boxes of products people consume an industry and transportation companies already dumped quite poisonous substances in the volume of 8736 cubic cm or 539 cubic inches.

This is a daily amount. Over the year that comes to around 21 cubic feet or 3 cubic meters of the trash. And you cannot recycle that trash (Neat video describing this production cycle).
Now, let us consider the average human and its pile of stuff. You can be an example in this case. I bet that the majority of you has in your residences at least 10 completely useless things. Extra clothing, extra shoes, cute decoration that you used only once, a tool that you did not apply for a more than year, extra screws, nails, or whatever is your favorite item to grab when you shop; some present older relative gave you and you do not wish to get rid of it. Maybe you even have a duplicate of the items. Or there is some item you did not get rid of in case sometime in future you might need it.
I’m one of you too. I have clothing that is too small, but I keep it because I hope I’ll lose weight. I also have loads of useless and duplicate spices. I like to cook, so when I go shopping, I will grab a spice that sounds interesting, and maybe cook with it once, and then forgot about it. And I am someone who decided to stop buying unnecessary stuff. I have a rule, I’m not buying new stuff until the old one is so damaged that is not usable or repairable anymore. But despite this rule, I end up with duplicates or unnecessary thing.
I’m still better than average here where I live in South California. Stuff I got myself in the last year would fit only in one of those boxes I mentioned above. I managed to cut my consumption to the one-quarter of what is the average of the residents around me. So, pollution released during the production of my stuff is only 0.75 cubic meters or 5.25 cubic feet of pollutants released into the environment last year.
Imagine how fast we could reach the targeted carbon emissions and how much we could cut the pollution if a majority of the population in developed countries does the same. If you could curb your consumerism, If you buy only the stuff you need. Just imagine how much pollution you will stop going into an environment for each item you do not buy.

I have jackets that are more than 10 years old, but hey, they still fit, they still work. I even have 2-3 tops that I inherited from my mother, meaning those are over 50 years old. I have an external DVD drive I got myself more than a decade ago, it still works perfectly. Mind I have to use power-plug converters to plug it in, but it works. I have towels that are 10 years old. They still work. They are still fluffy.

My quality of life did not change much. I would say the quality of my life improved because now I have less stuff. My residence is tidier than before. Overall, there is less clutter, and it is easier to maintain the cleanliness of the house. And I have more time for more pleasant experiences, like a hike in the local mountains.
Once I heard the comment that today stuff is lower quality so that more people can get jobs producing it. And we need more jobs because today there are more people. Well, that’s just not true. It sounds like fantastic reasoning until you remember robots. Yes, profits of the companies from that chain of the production will be cut down with the reduction of the consumerism. But there will be not too many new losses of jobs. Those already happened, when the robots took over the production. Now robots are infiltrating the transportation, and Silicon Valley is introducing robots into sales as well. How many of you encountered self-serving checkouts? I even used a few. How many of you do your shopping online? I prefer that method myself.
In fact, the reduction of the consumerism might force people in power to make some change to this unsustainable system of consumption a bit sooner. Their profits will suffer not only because people buy less but also because robots do not spend money.
Our society will change, life means change. So why not push for the change that can actually benefit humans in the long run? If we stop increasing the average temperature of the atmosphere, we might yet survive as a species.

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