Archive for the ‘consumption’ Category

Support Reverend Billy!

March 2, 2009

Youth A: Are you being sarcastic?
Youth B: I don’t even know any more, man…
~The Simpsons

Coiffured street performer Reverend Billy will run for mayor of NYC on the Green Party ticket, according to the NYTimes.

This is the first instance of a burner (read: Burning Man festival attendee) running for major political office that I know of.

What’s his platform? Oppose consumerism, focus on “neighborhoods,” pretend to be an evangelical Christian.

It’s a superb policy agenda as far as I’m concerned, but for the lamentable absence of “lampooning Bobby Jindal” which, sources indicate, will emerge as a central issue in the next election cycle.

Like Bobby J, Rev. Billy has made a recent and ridiculous appearance on CBS:


Doc to Dock

June 13, 2008

Just wanted to take a moment out of my busy (?) workday to post a quick plug for a local charity organization that I’ve worked with a couple of times called Doc to Dock. Check out their site!

The idea is simple: During surgery, doctors open up huge bags of sterile medical supplies but typically use only a small number of them. The rest of the stuff, which is all packed in kits and individually wrapped and thus sterile, must be thrown away. (Then of course all of this crap, most of it plastic, goes either to the landfill or to the incinerator.)

That’s the law! Because of it, hospitals in America waste thousands of tons of brand new medical supplies per day. I posit that the point of said law is not to protect us from some looming public health risk, but rather to artificially boost sales for medical supply companies. (And in turn their suppliers, the plastics industry. And what does plastic come from? Oil!) We need to re-evaluate the conventional economic wisdom that production and consumption growth are always good — the late great Galbraith had a point.

Anyway, Doc to Dock works with hospitals to establish a recycling system so that unused medical supplies, still in mint condition, can be donated. Then Doc to Dock employs volunteer laborers (like myself) to sort the supplies, then ships them to hospitals in Africa where said supplies are desperately needed. So it’s good work! If you live in Brooklyn, you should go down there and help some time. They are cool.

For good measure:

Medical supply companies and their corporate parents are getting what amounts to a subsidy for overproduction — hospitals are required to buy more than they need. This boosts our GDP (yay!) but is not good for consumers. Put yourself in the producer’s shoes: Why bother trying to compete for a hypothetical African market when you’ve got a permanent customer in your pocket?

Tyco, known to all of us as the friendly purveyors of toy trucks and electrical equipment, is also the world’s fourth largest medical supply company. So they’re reaping the rewards of this arrangement; indeed Tyco executives are notoriously greedy. And they have no qualms evading local labor laws in Latin America (as when they were requiring female workers in Mexico to submit to pregnancy testing.) Love those toy trucks though!

A Pimp-ly Word of Advice

April 7, 2008

Hey you!

I know what’s on your mind. Let’s cut the bullshit and get down to the hot, sexy shit: Oil!

Be careful when fooling around with Oil, or even courting its attentions– Oil is undeniably attractive, but it’s also dark, notoriously slick, and it has a hell of a bad reputation among the fellas for causing violence. Watch out because it’s got a long and sordid history. Oil has been all over town! And you and I both know that everywhere she goes she causes explosive “growth”: Industry, Technology, Consumption are all in love with her man…even the series of processes associated with the expansion of transnational capitalism (who also goes by a street name: Globalization.)

Oil has been seen hanging around with a crazy punk called The American Way Of Life. This guy is dangerous. He’s a sadistic bastard; a schizophrenic gangster and pimp, no joke. Jack Nicholson from The Departed looks like Julie Andrews from Mary Poppins compared to this asshole.

This dude is so conceited that he’s even got that ornamental “The” attached to his name. (Presumably you would remove the article if you were actually speaking with him. Just as you would if you were to make plans to hang out with The RZA. As in: “Hey RZA, what are you doing on Tuesday night? Wanna play a game of Scrabble?”)

Besides man, Oil is not a cheap date…it will make you buy dinner at a pricey French Restaurant. You’re gonna be buying bottles of fine wine and lobster platters at market price! Shit!

The word on the street: Oil is probably going to run out on you soon, my brother. It’s not the kind of resource to stick around and make a home for you and your kids, you dig? It is bad for business.

EDIT: Friedman works a similar Oil metaphor here

Jared “Guns, Germs, and Steel” Diamond on consumption

January 3, 2008

Check out this article in yesterday’s NYtimes in which the illustrious Professor Jared Diamond discusses the big problem with worldwide consumption rates.

Jared Diamond

Diamond is a really gifted writer and he’s got a penchant for geographical analysis which you don’t hear often. Turns out that the “Developed” World consumes way more per capita than the “Developing” World and that the later seems to want to become more like the former regardless of the potential shortages. So we can’t all be rich and wasteful forever. Who knew?

In “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, Diamond basically outlines this theory that all of our global inequities as determined by world history, including consumption rates, can be followed back to geographical accident.

Also, according to this article, Europeans have a higher standard of living by every conceivable measure yet they consume far less than Americans. Interesting!

For me though, because I’m becoming something of a China nerd, the most interesting part is the following:

“Among the developing countries that are seeking to increase per capita consumption rates at home, China stands out. It has the world’s fastest growing economy, and there are 1.3 billion Chinese, four times the United States population. The world is already running out of resources, and it will do so even sooner if China achieves American-level consumption rates. Already, China is competing with us for oil and metals on world markets.

Per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below ours, but let’s suppose they rise to our level. Let’s also make things easy by imagining that nothing else happens to increase world consumption — that is, no other country increases its consumption, all national populations (including China’s) remain unchanged and immigration ceases. China’s catching up alone would roughly double world consumption rates. Oil consumption would increase by 106 percent, for instance, and world metal consumption by 94 percent.”

Will China ever catch up? Will people ever start consuming equally? Will our resources run out?
Will scarcity lead to catastrophe?

Things tend towards equilibrium, so it’ll all balance out in the end of course…whether or not that eventual end will allow for human civilization is the question.