Saturday, May 17, 2008

the story of stuff...

mood: cynical If you don't happen to be one of the billion people living on 1 US$ a day or less, chances are that you could be one of the billion people living in an industrialized nation.

Then there is one word that describes your identity best: consumer. You live in a consumer nation.

This is the story of stuff, the stuff you consume, told by Annie Leonard, an American scholar (on international trade, development, international sustainability and environmental health issues) who has looked into this stuff for a decade.

It is a simple but enlightening look deep into the heart of our consumer lifestyle: where does stuff come from where does it go?

Watch the 20 minute feature on her website or on youtube (part 1 of 7):

Some fun facts:
  • Food at the top of food chain with highest level toxic contaminants: human breast milk; i.e., human babies are getting the highest dose of toxins on the planet.
  • In the US, 99% of stuff is thrashed in 6 months.
  • Within three decades, one third of all natural resources have been consumed.
  • 75% of global fisheries are fished at or beyond capacity.
  • 80% of the planet's original forests are gone; in the Amazon, 2'000 trees a minute are chopped.
  • There are 100'000 synthetic, i.e., man made chemicals; no tests on synergistic health impacts (i.e., what happens when these substances interact) are done; dioxin the most toxic man made substance known to science.
  • Globally, 200'000 people a day are moving from environments that have sustained them for generations into cities, looking for work.
  • US industry: 4'000'000'000 pounds of toxic chemicals a year.
  • Average US citizen consumes twice as much as 50 years ago.
  • 3'000 ads a day are seen by US citizens; this is more ads seen a year today than 50 years ago in a whole lifetime.
  • Less leisure time today, and this scarce time is mostly used to watch TV and shop.
  • In the US, each household produces twice as much garbage as in the 70s.
  • More stuff owned today than ever, but US national happiness declining since 50s.
  • Industrial design journals from the 50s: how fast can we make stuff break and still leave the consumer to have enough faith in the product to go out and buy another one.
  • The US, with its 5% of world population, consumes 30% of the worlds resources and produces 30% of the worlds waste; this scales up to 3 to 5 planets needed to sustain such a lifestyle if every person on earth would behave in this way.
  • Of the 100 largest economies 51 are corporations.
If you're interested in more such musings, see my other blog post, take the Earth Institute quiz, or, if you understand French or German, Le Monde Diplomatique's Atlas of Globalization.

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