Jurich: Common unity economyWritten by Stacy Jurich | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As a first-year college student at Ohio State University I joined Free the Planet!, a club whose mission is to free the planet. This influenced my life as an activist, and my economics courses influenced my opinion that common-sense economics and creating local living economies is the most sustainable model. I recall a moment when in and out of the classroom study overlapped, pondering why people (or a company) would cut down trees to make a product to sell for money. But if we don’t have trees — and thus cannot sustain life — then what good is money? A simple concept, I thought — common sense. Aren’t the trees a little more important? No, tree hugger, they’re not. The current model of economics says cut down the trees, use them to make stuff to sell for money. We are capitalists and you need to make (paper) money so you can buy stuff.
“The Story of Stuff” is a 20-minute video by Annie Leonard that describes how our linear materials economy is rapidly eliminating our natural resources: trees, mountains, water, animals, air; the underlying necessities of life. And when I say eliminating, I mean:
- In the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resource space has been consumed .
- In the U.S., less than 4 percent of original forests remain.
- 40 percent of waterways are undrinkable.
- The U.S. has 5 percent of world’s population but is using 30 percent of world’s resources and creating 30 percent of global waste.
- 75 percent of global fisheries are fished at or beyond capacity.
- The Amazon is losing 2,000 trees each minute (that’s the size of 7 football fields).
- 80 percent of the planet’s original forests are gone.
This natural resource exploitation is supposedly validated by the creation of stuff. After World War II, corporations and the government were trying to figure out how to re-boost the economy, and people like retailing analyst Victor LeBeaux and President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors chairman decided that we should make consumption our way of life, and that the American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods. At this time, planned obsolescence was born. Products were (and still are) designed to be useless so we would discard it and replace it with a new one (plastic bags, coffee cups, electronics). 99 percent of the stuff we buy is trashed within six months after purchase! That adds up to about 4.5 pounds of garbage per person, per day. Additionally, waste amounting to approximately 70 garbage cans per person per day is created “upstream” during the production stages of our stuff.
Youngsters in the U.S. practically have full-time jobs in front of the screen … 40 hours a week spent in front of a computer, television, iTHIS and iTHAT. We spend so much time working for money for the stuff, that we don’t have time
for leisure. Many Americans are stuck in a freaky scary cycle — work, TV (which says buy more), shop, work to pay for shopping, TV, shop … it’s no surprise our “national happiness” is at its lowest since the 1950s, when capitalism and planned obsolescence was born.
Let’s see if this makes sense yet. We unsustainably mine and harvest natural resources to create products with the utmost inefficiency around the globe, and in the process create waste, pollution and toxins. We buy these goods and then throw them away, creating more garbage and pollution, thus destroying the natural resources that remain. Activist Julia Butterfly Hill compares the words “ecologics” and “economics,” the studies of the roles of ecology and economy in our ecos, or home (lives). Notice where the word “logic” is found, implying the only way our economy will “make sense” is if it is rooted in ecology being of primary importance.
“There are no jobs on a planet that can no longer sustain us because we have taken more than our share,” Hill said.
I might be described using Italian Marxist and revolutionary thinker Antonio Gramsci’s phrase “pessimism of intellect, optimism of will.” “The Story of Stuff” suggests that we “unplug the TV and Internet and plug in the community.” The collective conscious can and is creating an economy based on common unity, gaining wealth through human interactions and ecological restoration, and sharing comfort and safety knowing our basic needs are and will be met. Light bulbs are going off, literally and figuratively … What’s your story?
E-mail Stacy Jurich at email@example.com.