I was reading one of the e mail forwards which after travelling through numerous mail boxes landed into mine.
It goes something like this.
“Yesterday, I was driving, and the FM radio went off for few seconds. I thought, I should have an iPod. Then suddenly I realized that I have not used my iPod in last 6 months. And then… more things, Handy cam in last 2 years, Digital Camera in last 2 months, DVD player in last 1 month and many more. Now I can say that I bought that Handy cam just out of impulse, I have used it twice only in last 4 years. So, whats wrong and where? When I look at myself or my friends I can see it everywhere. We are not happy with what we have but all are stressed and not happy for the things we don’t have. You have a Santro, but you want City… You have a City, but you want Skoda. Just after buying a new phone, we need another one. Better laptop, bigger TV, faster car, bigger house, more money… .I mean, these examples are endless. The point is, does it actually worth? Do we ever think if we actually need those things before we want them? “
I will take a departure from here. While the author ( unknown in this case ) asks us to re evaluate our ideas of happiness and wonders , why even after having all the luxuries we are unhappy, I was more bothered with our growing infatuation with buying things we don’t need. Our house (and also our mind, with the growing overload of useless information) has become a store house of things we can do away with.
Annie Leonard in her excellent documentary – The story of stuff, makes this interesting point.
We have become a nation of consumers. Our primary identity has become that of consumer, not mothers,teachers, farmers, but consumers. The primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated is by how much we contribute to this arrow, how much we consume. And do we! We shop and shop and shop. Keep the materials flowing.
I read about Annie Leonard and her documentary in an article which spoke about the growing menace of waste (quite a co incidence that radioactive waste in Delhi led to people who handled it being critically Ill).An activist who has spend the last 10 years travelling all around to track where our stuff ( that the terms she uses for the materials we consume ) comes from and where it goes, Annie Leonard’s 20 minute documentary is one of the smartest presentation on the life cycle of material goods. She talks about the five steps of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal and how the interaction of each of the systems with societies, cultures, economies and the environment is creating a lot of unsustainable pressure.
The most interesting piece of statistic for me is this –
Guess what percentage of total material flow through this system is still in product or use 6 months after their sale in North America.
Fifty percent? Twenty?
One percent. One!
In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months. Now how can we run a planet with that rate of materials throughput?
Well, what came as a harmless e mail from one of my colleagues is actually a consumption trap we have fallen into. We have made consumption our way of life. We are seeking our emotional and spiritual satisfaction from the same.
It’s time we stop. Look left. Look right. And then cross the road.