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Garbage & stuff - March 16

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A short history of what man covets most - STUFF

Chris Shaw, OnlineOpinion
Humans invented boats in early historical times. Eventually they found ways of making them bigger and sending them ever further away from home. Those boats became the first machines for getting stuff, which was just as well, because the princes and barons who had the most stuff were beginning to get a little paranoid about running out of it.

Sometime later, the Americas were discovered. The natives had so much stuff, it made the head spin. Best of all, they didn't know about stuff, which gave the visitors a great advantage over them. Their continent was so rich with stuff, the boats couldn't take it all away. There was nothing else for it but to settle down and just use up the stuff where it lay.
Photo of Chris Shaw
...It all would have been so different if humans hadn't discovered some stuff called oil. You see, oil was a revolutionary way of getting more stuff. It allowed the machines for getting stuff to sail faster, fly through the air and to grab stuff more quickly. This was stuff raised to the Nth power (if you get my mathematical drift).

Perhaps I should clarify that statement. My great grandparents lived in a world of stuff PLUS stuff, whereas I have known nothing but stuff TIMES stuff. I live in a blizzard of stuff, without ever being aware of it. Every day a tsunami of stuff dumps a mountain of stuff at my uncomprehending, ungrateful feet.

In short, there is no other stuff which is as supercalifragilistic as oil. Why? Because oil is the only stuff capable of exerting the magical multiplier effect upon other stuff.

Chris Shaw was a mining metallurgist, until retreating to care for his beloved partner. Mining metallurgists are trained to appreciate the laws of natural abundance. Mining is where the wishful thinking of economists meets the reality of nature.
(14 March 2007)
Satire from "The Feral Metallurgist". If you don't like it please consider producing some of your own, we do need more stories and (accurate enough) myths.-LJ


The end of garbage

Marc Gunther, Fortune Magazine
Can you imagine a world of zero waste? Cities and towns across the world - and a surprising number of companies - have adopted that goal
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...Today San Francisco has a recycling rate of 68%, the best of any American city, and it intends to do better. Much better. San Francisco and Wal-Mart (Charts) do not have much in common, but there is this: Both have a goal of achieving zero waste.

So do cities and towns from Boulder and Carrboro, N.C., to Buenos Aires and Canberra, as well as a surprising number of businesses, including Toyota (Charts), Nike (Charts), and Xerox (Charts). They're making headway: Toyota has eliminated all the waste from its 5,000-employee U.S. headquarters near Los Angeles. Governments, meanwhile, are stepping in to regulate the disposal of computers, cellphones, and packaging.

Zero waste is just what it sounds like - producing, consuming, and recycling products without throwing anything away. Getting to a wasteless world will require nothing less than a total makeover of the global economy, which thinkers such as entrepreneur Paul Hawken, consultant Amory Lovins, and architect William McDonough have called the Next Industrial Revolution.

They want industry to mimic biology, where one species' excrement is another's food. "We're not talking here about eliminating waste," McDonough explains. "We're talking about eliminating the entire concept of waste."

This utopian vision is a long way off. But the changing economics of waste disposal, technical advances, and grass-roots activism - along with the feverish desire of big companies to appear green - are bringing it closer than you might think.
(14 March 2007)


Britons throw out a third of all food, research says

James Sturcke, Guardian
Over-buying, wrong storage temperatures and fussy children were among the reasons people gave for throwing away 6.7m tonnes of food a year,
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One-third of food bought in British shops ends up in rubbish bins, new research revealed today.

Over-buying, wrong storage temperatures and fussy children were among the reasons people gave for throwing away 6.7m tonnes of food a year, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), a government body funded by Defra, said.

Around half the food waste is edible, with the rest consisting of items such as peelings, bones and teabags. Wrap's research - due to be published in full at the end of the month - found that food accounts for almost one-fifth (19%) of domestic waste.
(16 March 2007)


A Hoarders Guide To The End Of The World

Amanda Kovattana, blog
Mention the word "hoarder" in a meeting of organizers and a collective shiver will run down our spines. A hoarding client's clutter brings us head to head with a vision that is out of balance. Whether a result of unconscious compulsions, chronic shopping, expectations that don't ad up or an inability to reconcile cause with effect, it all comes to bear on the limits of space. But even clients who are not hoarders can manifest hoarding impulses that seem perfectly rational at the time.

"What about this?" I asked a client, while holding up a restaurant size can of garbanzo beans. It turned out to be one of those "just in case the worse happens" purchases-earthquake, terrorist attack. I asked if she was planning to feed the whole neighborhood. No, not that generous. Then I pointed out that, in an emergency, we would very likely not have power and this giant can of garbanzo beans, once opened, would quickly go bad without refrigeration.

"You know what?" she said, "I just bought it because it was on sale. Put it in the donation box."

Hoarding does have its place. Once human society was able to "hoard" enough grain to feed the village, the villagers were buffered from starvation in times of crop failure. The ability to hoard successfully allowed civilization to bloom. When not everybody had to spend their time foraging for food, some of those villagers could become priests, heads of state and bureaucrats. Trade ensued which led to empire building.

...I believe in an abundance of love and the deep potential of the human spirit to connect with all life, but we are embedded in a resource-extracting, growth economy where solutions to problems and the successes we envision often mean a higher level of consumption and energy use. When our complex society is forced to decelerate, it might not be such a bad thing.

Wrapping my mind around disaster scenarios exercises my brain, and keeps it flexible. It helps me to reclaim power in the face of George Bush's America. If society is going to collapse, it would be good to know the story about how we got there and what we might do about it. Otherwise the most vocal among us will grab the podium and blame it all on gay marriage.
(14 March 2007)

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