Imagining waste

So you’ve just done Christmas with the family eh?

  • How many presents were bought by one family member or friend of the family for another ( on average )?
  • How much wrapping paper, synthetics, sticky-tape, ribbons, and other superfluous package was used per gift?
  • How many component parts of the present, and how much of the packaging & wrapping were biodegradable?
  • What is the lifespan of the utility of the gift?

What is the half-life for breakdown of the materials? Will they last hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of years?

  • How much energy was required by natural processes to create the raw materials from which they were made?
  • How many other units of resources were involved in the process of their natural creation?
  • How many additional units of energy and resources over time, were used by human beings to harvest, process, refine, store, whole-sale distribute raw materials & component parts, design, manufacture, assemble, store again, market, advertise, sell, etc. those things that went into making those gifts?
  • How many natural ecosystem services were disrupted, destroyed, or polluted by any of those phases of supply?
  • How many were bought every other year by you and your family?
  • How much use did you actually get from them?
  • How many things broke really quickly?
  • How many do you think other families bought this year? Last year? Every year? In your suburb …
  • What about in the rest of your city? All the other cities of your state? Your country? Every other country?
  • How many other gift giving holidays exist across all cultures of the planet? How frequent are they?
  • What proportion of all this stuff and it’s packaging and wrapping is just pure waste?
  • What proportion will soon become new waste?
  • Within your town, how many businesses do you think it takes to equal that amount of waste on other activities?
  • What about in other towns and cities across your country and around the globe?
  • Did you know that approximately 10% to 30% of food production is thrown out?
  • How many products are made with inbuilt obsolescence?
  • How many products are made that are completely technologically redundant?
  • How many resources are consumed or polluted or destroyed by industries that wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have a monopoly stranglehold on a market?
  • How many resources are wasted by meaningless “entertainment” to keep people distracted?
  • How many resources are wasted by warfare, including testing, ecological destruction/pollution, and the destruction of infrastructure?
  • How much petrol is wasted by vehicles travelling completely unnecessarily so that people can do meaningless jobs that are easily automated, or jobs they could easily perform from home?
  • How many resources are wasted on producing car parts to repair cars from accidents that only occur because so many people are doing so much pointless driving?
  • How much petrol is wasted by the fact that the internal combustion engine motor vehicles only uses on average 0.2% of the available energy in the fuel to move the mass of the driver?
  • How much petrol is wasted by buses that travel according to a schedule, even when no one is on them aside from the driver, or so few people they could fit in a small compact car?

I could keep listing things all day, all night, all week, and never finish.

Our society is not unsustainable because there’s too many people per se … it’s unsustainable because the amount of waste per person, per organisation, per household, and per sector of society, is beyond mind boggling … we waste more than we actually use, we destroy without thought, and we pollute and destroy the capacity for replenishment.

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