Category Archives: Consumerism

The Story of Stuff

  • Did you know that the average house size in the United States is double what it was in the 1970s? I wonder if it isn’t partly because we need space for all of our stuff?
  • Did you know that in the U.S. national happiness peaked sometime in the1950s, even though we consume twice as much as we did fifty years ago? All of our stuff doesn’t seem to have helped here.
  • Did you know that in the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed to make all of our stuff?
  • Did you know that we each see more advertisements in one year than people 50 years ago saw in a lifetime?
  • Did you know that for every garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream to make the junk in that one garbage can you put out on the curb?
  • Did you know that 40% of U.S. waterways are now undrinkable, and that to make all of our stuff we now have over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce today — only a handful of which have even been tested for human health impacts and NONE have been tested for synergistic health impacts? (source)

Today I’d like to introduce you to the story of stuff….

Also posted in Global Warming

Why ‘Increased Energy Efficiency’ Won’t Save Us

There’s a lot of talk in political circles on how technology and ‘increased efficiency’ will save us from our socioeconomic and ecological woes. The U.S., for example, is finally getting a little more serious about vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and we’re sharpening our pencils in many other areas as well.

Saving energy is course a good thing – indeed, it should be seen as an imperative moral duty. I mean, on a cold, windy winter’s day, would you wander around the house in your underwear with the heaters wound to max and curtains flailing wildly through wide open windows? Most would consider this obscene. In the same way, producing vehicles that unashamedly consume vast amounts of ancient forest just for a race between the lights is the ultimate in stupidity.

But, having said all that, too few understand that just making something more efficient doesn’t necessarily translate into an energy saving. On the contrary, it has been repeatedly shown that greater efficiency translates easily into greater consumption.

Yes, read that last sentence again.

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Also posted in Energy, Geopolitics & Economics

The Bionic Burger

Long before Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation, Matt Malmgren was making interesting discoveries about fast food. In 1989, the trailing edge of the mullet era, he bought two burgers — he ate one and put the other in his pocket, intending to eat it later, but subsequently forgot about it. A full year passed before he pulled his old jacket out of the closet again, rediscovering the burger — and to his surprise found it still looked and smelled the same as a new one. It hadn’t decomposed.

When he told his friends about it, they didn’t believe him, so he repeated the experiment, several times over…. Today he has the world’s largest burger museum. All perfectly preserved with a chemical cocktail that discourages (much smarter) animals and insects from eating them.

Also posted in Health, Pollution

Pandemic Ahoy?

Factory farming is back in the spotlight….

The 1975-77 TV Series ‘Survivors’

I’m showing my age here, but I was today reminded of an old British TV series called ‘Survivors‘ that was very popular in the late 1970s (nothing to do with modern reality shows!). It was a bit like Mad Max, but set in Britain, and after a pandemic rather than a nuclear war. The pandemic was, incidentally, a man-made affair. A lab experiment went horribly wrong when a test-tube crashed to the floor releasing a deadly virus. The scientist subsequently spread the contagion around the globe as he flew from convention to convention. Very few individuals survived.

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Also posted in Health, Pollution

A Farm for the Future

Seeing Permaculture promoted on the BBC is yet another positive sign of the times. In this 50 minute presentation, wildlife film-maker Rebecca Hosking returns to her farming roots – hoping to take over the reins of her family farm in Devon, UK – and duly considers exactly what kind of farm she wants to develop. Significantly, Rebecca looks at where the world is heading in regards to food production, and, in particular, thinks about the serious implications of peaking oil supplies on our fossil-fuel dependent agriculture.

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Also posted in Diversity, Global Warming, Health, Permaculture, Society

Supermarket Secrets

Here’s a great behind the scenes look at modern supermarket and supply chain practices that have significant implications on the health of our environment, our animals, our food – and ultimately our own health. If you don’t have more than a few minutes up your sleeve, bookmark this page to watch when you do — as these are two full (and very interesting!) 49 minute documentary episodes.

Supermarket Secrets and Deceptions, Part I

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Also posted in Health, Pollution, Society

An Interview with Jules Dervaes

Today we are pleased to talk to a very interesting man – a man on a very interesting mission; on what he describes as “the path to freedom”, where he escapes being part of the problem, to become part of the solution. Before we get started, watch the following ABC clip to get an idea of his work, and then we’ll hear from the man himself.

Craig Mackintosh: Thank you Jules. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work. Most of our readers will have watched the YouTube movie above, so will have an inkling of what Path to Freedom is about, but I wonder if you could fill in any pertinent details the short news report may have left out, so as to round out our grasp of what you’re doing today?

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Also posted in Society, Urban Gardening

Food Miles, or ‘Fair Miles’

When you make your purchases, are you struggling over the decision to ‘shop local’ or ‘support the poor in distant lands’? If so, read this.

I had been meaning to make a post on the subject of ‘Food Miles, or Fair Miles’, and finding this article from Reuters provided an ideal vehicle to do so. Please consider the following:

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Also posted in Food Shortages, Geopolitics & Economics

Global Warming, Hitler and World War II Rationing

Peer pressure, national pride, and
legal mandates worked together
against the common evil

It’s an unusual title, I know – but bear with me.

If you were to personify global warming, to literally morph it into some kind of effigy – something you could tie to a stake in the town square, and throw cabbages, or rocks at – what would the guy look like?

I guess the degree of grotesquery in your visualisation would largely depend on where in the world you live, and to what extent this ‘person’ has adversely influenced your life, although in some ways it could be easy to conjure an image of one of last century’s most notorious, infamous villains – Adolf Hitler. Couldn’t it?

If you think back over the last few hundred years, when was the last time the world was really united against a universal and common enemy? There have been dozens of major wars, and hundreds of ‘spats’, but WWII stands out as a conspicuous juncture in history when even the most contrary elements, like the capitalist, democratic USA and communist, totalitarian USSR, put their differences aside and worked to a common end.

A quote from Winston Churchill captures the moment well:

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Also posted in Food Shortages, Global Warming, Society

Powering Down – Will We?

Most underestimate the implications…

Through our Hollywood-tinted glasses we’re accustomed to happy endings. The instinctive “it won’t happen to me” mentality is alive and well, but, whilst perhaps preserving the comfortable status quo (if not our sanity), it does little to promote objectivity. In a world threatened by global warming, potential constructive accomplishments are thus too often hampered and bogged down in the realm of discourse and debate.

In plain English – we need to get real.

On this note, check out the following clip. Richard Heinburg, the author of the book “Powering Down“, has much to say on possible strategies, or failing that, outcomes, for our post peak-oil world. I think it’s time we really examine, not just computer climate models – but societal projections.

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Also posted in Energy, Geopolitics & Economics, Global Warming, Society