I’ve had trouble digesting many things brought up in this class (Biology: People and Resources in Ecological Perspective). As long as I’ve lived I’ve been a skeptical person. Videos and literature such as “The End of Suburbia” and The Party’s Over have no problem convincing me that Big Oil and Corporate America’s influence on our government shape the world we live in today. In fact, they could’ve saved their breath in that regard. I have accepted my rather insignificant ability to guide decisions in this country a long time ago. Someone “important” or influential and as “American as apple pie” will always come along and sway the masses. After which they’ll follow this individual in every motion, every decision; and every matter of opinion that they’ve ever held dear is now up for grabs. Now, I am not trying to discourage free thinking, some fresh perspective is about as welcome to me as a delicious shot of dark, rich espresso. However, if the creators of these videos and books think that I’m going to change my entire way of life because of fear at what they’re proposing will happen; well then, they can join John McCain, Dick Cheney, terrorists, editorialists and the exhaustive list of others who use fear and ignorance to further their own agendas.
That being said, this material is disturbing. Who could sit back and watch “The Story of Stuff” and not feel like a jerk for just being an American? This video raises many valid and provable points. The cost of the very keyboard I’m typing on, that I got a “steal” on at Wal-Mart, was very likely produced by the labor of individuals with little or no rights. They paid most of the price that I wasn’t willing to for this keyboard with their long hours and little pay. Yet, here I sit typing up my blog post because I had a need for this keyboard and I had to buy one of them, why not the cheapest? Is Logitech a more or less shameful choice compared to HP or Microsoft? Can we trust any maker of “stuff” to have a conscience that extends beyond their PR-hyped charity? But I’m getting off track. Perhaps the people who produce my keyboard make nothing, but it’s a job and its money and their glad to have it and the more we make a fuss about how horrible their situation is the more likely the company that’s employing them will uproot and relocate taking their jobs along with it. Remember, free thinking also includes not immediately dismissing another person’s quality of life just because it isn’t the same as our cushy American or European lifestyles.
“Stuff’s” main issue wasn’t the poor foreign workers anyway, it centered on our easy-going American way of life and our ridiculous notion that we can continue our wasteful practices indefinitely in the name of consumerism. The first chapter of The Party’s Over highlighted numerous points in world history where populations have relied upon an energy source, expanded use of it, exploited it until it was exhausted and then suffered as a result. How could we have taken such abundant quantities of energy and squandered them? The author, Richard Heinberg, called these practices “Social Leveraging Strategies”, which is a nice way of saying that if a group of people outgrows its supply of energy then it immediately looks for another source of energy and takes it by any means necessary. He went on to discuss how even early, prehistoric man used these strategies to increase their energy capturing, which in turn eased their lives in many ways (or at least eased the lives of some in the population). It was however, never enough, increased energy increased populations and technologies which in turn increased energy consumption and the eventual exhaustion of another energy source. (Heinberg, 2005)
Heinberg also mentions an ecosystem which has transcended this destructive power-hungry cycle. A population that has reached a “Climax Phase” has become communal with the ecosystem that carries it. The species that contributes to the ecosystem may also reap the benefits of that ecosystem and energy will flow through the system abundantly without ever being hoarded or wasted. (Heinberg, 2005) This point, unfortunately, brings us to our dilemma.
Our energy wasting ways have been a practice ingrained in humans since time unknown. How can we ever expect to supply ourselves with sustainable energy that will support life in any manner? How can we find a way to offer basic life needs (food, water, shelter) to everyone on Earth and contain ourselves within our own “Climax Phase”? How can we take a world of divided, selfish nations and transform it into a united global community? These are questions which these sources have not answered, at least not yet. But will their answers be as empty and preposterous as the promises of the politicians and the corporate executives that they ridicule? As one expert in “The End of Suburbia” noted he himself is an author as dependant on this system of take and take as anyone else. Will I be forced to separate needed truths from their agenda, or will I be served up a hot, mouth-watering slice of humble pie? My skepticism and I await their reply.
(1) Heinberg, RH (2005). The party's over: oil, war and the fate of industrial societies. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.