Friday, 22 June 2007


Today I read No Impact Man's blog

Can capitalism survive environmentalism?

A radio journalist called to talk to me about this question yesterday. I think it is one of the most important questions going, since so much of the eco-discussion centers around how we can save the planet while keeping the way our economy and society functions exactly the same. But the question is, do we really want more of the same?

I’ve heard that the Chinese character for “crisis” is the combination of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” I think about this a lot: how the fact that our current environmental crisis is an opportunity for us to take a step back and take stock of the way we live and whether we are really heading in the direction we want.

The assumption in western politics seems to have been, for the longest time, that economic growth is what’s most important. The priority, on both a societal and personal level, in other words, is to get more efficient, do more work, produce more goods, and get more money.

On a societal level, the idea is that a growth in economy will trickle down to the poorest of the poor and that the quality of life for all of us will improve. On a personal level, the idea is that more money means more comforts. We’ve used the idea of growth in income—and resource use—as a surrogate for growth in personal and societal happiness.

It made me think about how my life has changed over the years.

When I was younger I thought many times about what I could do with extra money and the list was always endless and mostly centered around food and clothes for my children. Now that Fiona, Ariel , SnoWhite,Belle and Anastasia are all over 16 they can all work part-time or full-time and provide for themselves(well that's the theory). Beauty is quite happy with everything she has and is not like a normally developing 6 year old and doesn't constantly whinge for things. As well my girls have great difficulty buying me presents because if I feel I need it then I have already bought it. I feel that as I have grown older and I have more(don't get me wrong,as far as income is concerned the government would be happy to tell me that I am on the bread line) my desires seem to have got less and less.I seem to have lost attachment to things in the way that Buddhism suggests, when I went on holiday last I remember thinking that if I lost my suitcases there would be nothing that I would miss.
If I could purchase anything it would probably be property for my children, I can't think of anything that I would go out and purchase, well maybe some Chasseur pink cast iron saucepans when my current saucepans need replacing.

I really do believe that society does fuel our desires to buy more and more and the global economy will collapse one day under the weight of itself. We cannot go on.

I recently read this about RECYCLING in Japan
The following entry is brilliant and makes me want to travel to Japan just to buy the VINTAGE Kimonos

It's a symptom of the disease of our disposable age. I know you're used to coming over here and listening to me rant about everything that's wrong with America, and let me assure you, America is very, very sick with disposabilitis, but it's not terminal. I think. Japan, however, has a much worse case. Here in America, nearly every town, no matter how small, has a thrift store or a junk store or a used appliance store. Something that hints at our once proud tradition of use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. In Japan, the very idea of used is dirty.

Take kimono. Used, vintage kimono are unwanted, despised even, by most Japanese people. On one of my weekend trips to Tokyo (to get a break from the rice paddies) I found a used kimono shop. It catered strictly to gaijin (foreigners), and of the three trips I ultimately made to the shop, I never saw a Japanese person beyond the sales clerk and the "fabric advisor." (Many people bulk buy old kimono to turn into quilts and yarn. The fabric advisor is there to advise them on what fabric type it is.) On my first trip I bought a young woman's dress kimono, which are not like the elaborate geisha kimono, but that are still beautiful, with long fluttering sleeves. The sort of thing an unmarried woman wears for a formal occasion. It was pure silk, of course, and based on the type of fabric and design, it had been woven, dyed and hand sewn sometime in the very early 20th Century. It's dusky blue with a chrysanthemum and firefly motif--breath-taking and in perfect condition. No stains, no rips, no moth holes. I paid ¥40. At the time, about $43. At the big department store Ito Yukado Marudai, I bought the necessary undergarments, which cost me ¥80. At Ito, a new polyester kimono (machine dyed, machine sewn, mass-produced) sold for more than ¥600. That's where Japanese women went to buy kimono. When I wore my vintage kimono for a graduation dinner, everyone ooh'd and ah'd over it, but of course, I could get away with it--I was gaijin. No Japanese woman would have shown up wearing an old kimono.

Not only does Japan not do used clothing, they don't do used appliances. There is actually something of a national obsession for new appliances. Most refrigerators in Japan look like those little half-size affairs you sometimes see in work lunch rooms. They are very expensive, more expensive than a new American refrigerator. My apartment came furnished, and my fridge was "too old," according to my boss. More than 10 years old, I guess. My boss had complained to the landlord about it, and they were still negotiating over when the landlord would replace the fridge.

One morning, as I walked home from the train station, (I'd come home from a party on the first train, but the buses weren't running yet), I saw a nearly new refrigerator sitting on the curb, waiting for recycling pick-up. It was much newer than mine, maybe only a year or two old, and it looked perfect. I opened it, and found that inside it was spotless, as though the owner had washed it out before putting it on the curb. It had a layer of dew on it; it had sat there all night, unmolested. I was less than a block from my apartment. I ran home, dropped off my backpack and ran back. Fridge was still there. Still shiny. Still clean. I fished a piece of cardboard out of the cardboard recycling pile--the packaging for a new refrigerator, what do you know--and dragged the fridge down the block. Then I wrestled it up to my apartment, plugged it in, and found that it was in perfect working order. The person who'd thrown it out had simply gotten a new one.

A few weeks later, my boss was at my house and he noticed the new refrigerator. He said, "Oh, no, you did not buy new cooler? Landlord should take care of."

Pleased with myself (I was still new to Japan), I told him about the miraculous new fridge. He gasped in horror. "No, no. Used appliance not good. Should not have used appliance." It took me weeks to convince him that the used fridge was fine, better than my old one, in fact, and distinctly less used. (My old fridge had been haunted by the icky odor of some previous occupant's natto.)

I also saw part of a program last night about how our children are watching too much TV.
The families involved in the study had their TVs, computers games and PSPs etc removed for a period of time to see how well they coped and the results were quite encouraging but what shocked me most was the actual AMOUNT of electrical goods these really young children had. The girls once had a SEGA , and Anastasia and Fiona have had Game Boys and at present we only have one TV that actually shows TV programs, we have one that is also a DVD player and one plays only videos and we seem to cope fine. However, we do have 2 computers which have to be shared between us all( many fights over that ).
Most of the parents admitted that they used the TV, Games and Computers as baby sitters but I don't think it is just that. Media and peer pressure are responsible for making children want more and more and I have seen a number of articles about people in financial trouble because they want to live the Celebrity Lifestyle.
Sometimes Fiona asks for things and I say that I cannot afford it and she accepts what I say and I think that is really good, I think that is the way it should be.
Society will have to change sooner or later and surely it is better to do it out of choice.

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