Tag Archives: waste

The Problem with Immortality

Several people have stated over the years that man’s biggest problem is overpopulation.  These are usually people who have propagated and have adult progeny who have also propagated.  I don’t believe they were volunteering to be euthanized themselves, so the obvious question becomes one of who gets chosen to solve the overpopulation problem.

As I move through time and reach official “retirement” age, my perspective has changed.  I see the uncomfortable dilemma of feeling superfluous on the planet, reinforced by a youth culture that obviously or covertly resents the Baby Boomers for having robbed the universal till to secure comfortable retirements for themselves.

If the world is overpopulated, then war, disease, and famine work to right the scales.  If the mystics and other seers are right, there are many dimensions beyond the physical one, and many worlds being created all the time.  Even the astrophysicists say the universe is expanding.  Isaac Asimov anticipated overpopulation in his first sci-fi novel, Pebble in the Sky.  In that futuristic book, entire galaxies had been colonized, and there was mandatory euthanasia on Earth at age 60.  Other sci-fi novels present similar scenarios

It appears death is necessary in physical reality, to make room for new life.  If everyone were physically immortal, and lacking room to expand, the Earth would become crowded with humanity, as some claim has already happened.  Longevity is blamed, along with other factors.

The dilemma of immortality—or longevity—becomes one of what to do about overcrowding?  Presuming people continue to be born, a race of immortal beings that requires physical space must live somewhere.  Thus do the sci-fi novels delve into colonizing other places or, as in Pebble, making euthanasia mandatory.

When animal populations grow too large for their habitats, and if they can’t move, self-correcting mechanisms serve to reduce the population.  In human history, wars, disease, famine, infertility, homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, human sacrifice, expulsion, and even cannibalism have served that purpose.

Few would deny that Americans are the most wasteful people on the planet.  Not only is “consumerism” encouraged, but it is a source of pride for many.  It comes at a huge cost, though, as we must live in the garbage dump we are creating.  If overpopulation is the source of our problems–leading to war, pestilence, and all the other natural and unnatural mechanisms used to lighten the planet’s human load—then it makes social and personal sense to curb excess and waste.

My minimalist lifestyle represents a symbolic effort to curb my own excesses.  I chose not to have children, for instance.  I didn’t want children dependent on me, but I also recognized there are plenty of other people propagating, so my contribution in that sphere was unnecessary.

As I move through time, towards the age of superfluousness, and even towards a time of consuming more than I produce–along with my Baby Boomer cohort–I have to wonder if it becomes my social responsibility to get out of the way.  The growing support for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia seems motivated in part by the perceived burdensomeness of the elderly.  The alternative, for those who still have some living to do, would naturally be to remain “productive,” useful, and to continue contributing in some way to society.

There is no cure for death, in the time-space construct we have chosen.  There is hope for healthy and happy longevity, one in which age does bring wisdom, grace, depth, and understanding—valuable commodities that money can’t buy.

 

 

Packaging

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Has anyone considered the carbon footprint (and excessive waste) of all this single use packaging?  Whatever that fluorescent light bulb saves in end-of-line energy use is used up front in excessive packaging.  Why has Congress outlawed incandescent light bulbs?  Because if people had a choice, they would buy them.  Deprived of choice, people are forced to buy the patented technology or go back to using candles.

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Making Waste

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April, 2016

It occurred to me yesterday that money hoarding and information hoarding go together.  Information hoarding is most obvious in the patent industry.  This translates into mass confusion at the grassroots level, where multiple companies compete on the same turf for “market share.”

faucetplastic0316My new bathroom faucet provides the most recent example of this dysfunctionality.  Home Depot supplies only one brand of faucet, and the bottom of the line (read “simplest”) faucet only comes in one color, an off-color, “polished nickel,” so doesn’t match my formerly standard chrome.  In the 20 years since I bought the old faucet, the metal to plastic ratio has declined maybe 50%.  The drain pipe, pivot nut, and strap are now plastic.  I only needed the new faucet because the plastic gears inside both handles on the old one broke.

Plastic gears, plastic joints, and plastic moving parts have replaced metal in an across-the-board move that creates enormous waste and is dangerous, to boot.  I’m thinking of the aluminum lawn chair that snapped without warning because of the plastic joints.  Plastic, unlike metal or wood, is unfixable, so the entire product must be discarded.

Back to the faucet:  I considered substituting the old metal drain pipe for the new plastic one, but found that male and female ends had been reversed.

Why?  I have to wonder if patents have replaced standardized parts in our universalized conveniences.

Who benefits from this subtle downgrading of standard household equipment?  Certainly not the homeowner, who has not only the expense but the inconvenience of replacing equipment that should have lasted much longer.  Faucets installed all over town in the early 1900s are still functional.   While somewhat corroded and rusty on the outside, they still work as well as ever.

This isolated example would be a minor problem, except that every new replacement product I buy is worse than the old one.  Why did I even have to buy a new one?

“We can’t get parts,” is the standard answer.  When I suggest that digital controls on everything from my propane gas stove, dryer, and tankless water heater, to microwave–and even coffee percolator–add unnecessary levels of complexity and increase electrical and repair costs, people look at me as though I’m the crazy one.

stovefrigidairedig0416Why, in an age when we claim to want to reduce energy waste, are we being maneuvered into untenable situations like this?  My desire to free myself from the grid and Southern Company’s monopoly is blocked at every turn by corporate desperation to keep me hooked into a system that bleeds individuals like me dry.

And they wonder why the economy is imploding?

*The Waste Makers, by Vance Packard, (1963) which I read in the 1970s, made a profound and enduring impression.  I skimmed through it while writing this blog and see that Packard’s observations are even more apparent today.  It should be required reading in every high school.

**Total cost of replacing the Frigidaire stove’s digital control panel was $115. (The replacement part was $82).