Last Monday night, we discussed the Story of Stuff.
The Story of Stuff outlines how and where we get our things, and why our linear system of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal is unsustainable, flawed, and bad for everyone involved (except for the wealthy corporations).
Now, granted, we think most people interested in discussing these topics on this blog (or wherever?) are very aware of how privileged we are compared to the rest of the world, and that a lot of that privilege comes at a direct disadvantage, and even harm to many other people. This is partially why we discuss subjects like this. By watching & listening to the information presented, our awareness to these types of problems may enable us to make better decisions about how we spend our money and consume or uncover personal solutions that reduce our participation in this destructive circumstance.
Here are some topics we discussed:
1. Awareness: The system was designed, it didn’t just happen. This system was created to maximize profits, externalize costs, and marketed to us so that we would ignore all of the dark sides. I believe awareness is the first step to change! The more people know how the system is broken, the faster we can take action and change things.
2. The Overwhelming Reality: There is a lot of tough information to receive I this presentation. Most people feel overwhelmed upon hearing this information. In our discussion, many people responded with questions of confusion. “What are we supposed to do?”, was a question posed by several people.
When we need to buy new shoes because the ones we wear are completely worn out, what are we to do if we don’t have the time, money or skills make our own shoes. For items like shoes, there aren’t too many quality alternatives to shoes manufactures abroad, which tend to be made with materials extracted from small local environments & ecosystems. With an economic engine powered by big box stores like Wal-Mart & Costco it’s increasingly difficult to discover items from ethical, sustainable and fair companies.
Is it possible for companies that strive for these values (ethical, responsible, environmental, sustainable, fair & excellence) to survive in industries seeking profit maximization, cost-slashing & exploitative foreign labor?
3. Personal responsibility: Even if it feels like we are fighting a vast, inevitable tide of mindless, unhealthy, unsustainable consumerism, we can definitely start somewhere, and make conscious choices that have a positive, sustainable impact on the future. We discussed having relationships where we can be open and accountable to each other about how and when and where we spend our money.
Start somewhere. Think of ways you can improve or come up with alternative solutions that don’t fuel & even support a system filling the pockets of corporations (in technicality, people) with such short-term focus.
4. Community: Along those lines of relationship and accountability, we discussed the importance of a good, supportive community that cares about and understands the desire to make personal decisions that have less negative impact on the planet. We also discussed starting a sharing campaign, where we can share things that not everyone needs to own, such as a grill, a camera, a lawnmower, a basketball, a ladder and other tools. Sharing items such as these reduces our collective individual consumption.
5. Real Costs v. External Costs: The system doesn’t make logical since. How are a dozen of eggs from Iowa a quarter of the price, at Vons, of a dozen eggs from a local farm in San Diego? If you start thinking only about the traveling it costs, the numbers don’t add up. With gas costing as much as it does, how can eggs travel hundreds of miles on the interstate and end up at the local supermarket on sale for $1.99? While buying a dozen of free-range organic eggs at a local farmer’s market that come from a local farm cost upwards of $6. The truth is, eggs, free-range eggs, do actually cost upwards of $6.00, if you account for all the costs included in raising a chicken in an organ fashion. The eggs sold for $1.99 are cheap for the consumer because the rest of the costs have been externalized to other stakeholders, be it local environments, communities or the global environment. All of the costs necessary to deliver a dozen of fresh eggs aren’t accounted for in $1.99 price, somebody else will pay the difference in future.
We all need to be a little more aware and responsible of how this country consumes by improving our personal consumption patterns.
Wouldn’t it be great if animals weren’t being added to the extinction list as often as they currently are? Or, if we didn’t consume hazardous byproducts that cause cancer in the products we use? Or if we weren’t made to feel worthless for not buying stuff we don’t need? Or, if the world wasn’t so trashed with toxins and plastics that will take eons to dissolve?
Well, we created this system and it is completely within our collective ability to begin make changes, even if it is at a personal level.
We wish there were an easier, more magical solution, but it is a process, and it’s one that We’re glad we got to dialogue about.
What are you initial remarks about what was presented?
How do you feel about the attention given to this demanding golden arrow?
What are small individual solutions or improvements you can begin making to reduce the effect of this flawed system?
What are your thoughts on spending more money to consume healthy food?
If you are involved in a community of people, could you begin making decisions to consume less? If you’re not involved in a community, what does it look like to start one and begin talking about consumption reduction?
Further Reading & Resources:
Story of Stuff website
Morgan Miller offered this presentation & discussion. Morgan lives in San Diego & is an awesome participating voice in Curate Self. Learn more about what she is curious & excited about on her blog, Friend of Mine or follow her on Twitter.