Got Junk?

A month from the credit-fueled evergreen orgy, time for a contrarian view of the earth and the billions stripping and poisoning the planet via this “developed world” consumption model.  My unapologetic path was sparked when as a child I queried an elder in the economic/manufacturing sector: what were we collectively to do about the inevitable depletion of the ingredients of our society, specifically petroleum.

“Oh, we’ll just go find more,” the elder responded confidently. That didn’t git it.

My world-onion grew another lamella during an NCSU Design School critique of my bench grinder housing.

“What’s the duty cycle of this motor,” I asked Mr. GM about his crummy Delco.

“50 hours.”

Pause. “Two days! A bench grinder?”

“It’s a marketing thing,” he parried during the ensuing verbal altercation. “Once you get out in the field, you’ll see.”

Despite my best efforts following graduation, somehow a corporate headhunter found me and dragged me into the “field.” Following that career, lo, I stumbled upon a grinder I had designed while still in that so-called career at a Manhattan hardware store.

“So what do you think?” I asked excitedly.

“Looks great,” the guy said, popping his gum. “It’s a fookin’ piece of shit. The old one was here for 60 years.”

My bench grinders are subject of international discourse — along with the mountains of similar discards. These tangible artifacts are what can be measured and observed without instrumentation unlike more ephemeral, irreplaceable substance of air, water/vapor and material/fuel stocks.

Consider nesting the sensational 2012 hoopla (correctly December 24, 2011) with James Lovelock’s “Gaia” theory, that the Earth is a single, living, self-regulating, self-healing ecological entity. While Lovelock’s theory remains theory, firmly rooted in somber fact is the terminal, extractive method we killer apes have perversely perfected, ordained and supplied with any number of psychologically defended, unvisualized and unsubstantiated magic parachutes. “Consensual” reality muscles millions into “normal,” the word tellingly (or hilariously) derived from a Roman carpenter’s square. Contrasted to our celebrated scientific rationality based, we are told, on the pure process of theory, statements based on theories of equal or greater validity than prevailing ideas frequently ignite a sort of politico/religious anger.  Bearers of contrary “theory” should prepare for insults and raised voices for merely thinking and expressing reservations about the status quo.

The extractive paradigm of Industrial Revolution and skillful use of media ordained and finalized our virtual divorce from the natural world, a daft concept heralded by industrial theorists at one point, a tidy display of the bankruptcy of the holy growth economy.

What to do in lieu of the wait for some outside entity to fix things, a “them”? One of the more immediate methods is a collective, individual use of the all-mighty market, illustrated by two thousand bucks worth of suits who entered this tiny, local beer joint.

“You guys ain’t cops are you?” asked one of the regulars finally.

“Naaa. Bud reps,” one said, taking a thoughtful sip. “This place serves more Anheuser Busch products than anywhere in the region. We had to have a look.” Vis the power of the individual within a macro system.

One reaction to the ills of modernity could be a heightened monitoring of the exchange with the earth. What one acquires, eats, how you travel … where the ex-stuff goes, a version of the turning off the lamp thing to the nth degree can become as absorbing and meditative as a fountain, the ripples of life on the pond of existence with neither beginning nor endings; “geoethics” or the “low wake” lifestyle. Being just as good to the earth as one can requires attention to every mote of nonrenewable material, every joule of fossil or nuclear energy. “Peak oil” might not be enough to slow the spigot. The late Anthony Sutton of Stanford University, presented convincing and documented analysis that the depletion gambit is a shell game allowing producers control over supply and prices. The earth could well harbor what should be called “terminal” reserves — enough poison to finish off the biosphere. Think of a global Los Angles, that toxic, petroleum fueled coastal empire still perched on an underground sea of petroleum.

All sorts of minuscule, tiny, related acts help create a world, composting, parking the car and vacuum cleaner in lieu of the bicycle and broom, extracting every shred of commodity from sturdy, well-made objects before recycling or discarding. Our primary vote, this “freedom of choice” has become a commercial exchange, the purchase (or not) of items via carefully considered reasons. A personal example would be my need of a scrub brush, the search for which uncovered at least one brand, Libman, that isn’t shipped halfway around the earth. A spur to that pitch is an underreported push to adjust policies and allow products of child and prison labor to be sold in the US.

A variant read on 2011 in contrast to the sensational Hollywood “end of the world,” scenario is that humanity is spinning toward a spontaneous mass evolution of consciousness away from a coarse, materialistic, industrial world-cancer back toward what has been understood and practiced since the “beginning” by most of the shrinking number of indigenes of the planet. For an example, global petroleum supplies are up, prices down, mirroring a drop in global consumption. While a measure of this is clearly economic, there are components of the market that defy analysis. People are using less and the skies are somewhat cleaner. Maybe just maybe at a time when we seem perched on an abyss, the academically accepted human-led “sixth extinction” now underway, eerily and coincidentally attending the emergence of the Mayan “Sixth World.” Humans may be beginning to re-accept our inseparability from nature.

This is not to propose deprivation. One can choose to participate as one can, negating the robotic inserted zeal for stuff and creating a world based more on what we have already gathered or can produce via renewable sources. Practically, the simplified life can greatly extend resources and money.

Start this x-mas. Shatter a stigma and give good used stuff along with a note informing the recipient which entity in need received the savings. We have a lot we can give.

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