12/04 Open Thread: More on Consumerism
I have written before about consumerism, over-consumption, how we got to this point and the environmental problems related thereto. Along the way I'm sure I and commentators have pointed out that cutting back on consumption is a form of rebellion, possibly one of the more serious forms out there. Of course, that is easier for some than others. Those who already consume just the bare minimum, for whatever reason, can't readily cut back. They also are not part of the problem, aren't feeding the machine and aren't contributing to the various problems. Everybody else, however, could rein in their acquisition of goods and services a bit, putting an infinitesimal hurt upon the beast, slowing the upward transfer of wealth, conserving resources and energy, and reducing pollution, trash and environmental contamination in the process. But for many (most?) it isn't that easy all the same, and for those who try to do so, it isn't that easy to sell others on the idea either. Hence I'm going to bring up yet another perspective on the problem(s). I'll also toss out an article on one thing to absolutely never buy or gift and show how it ties in.
Alana Semuels, a staff writer at The Atlantic wrote ‘We Are All Accumulating Mountains of Things’
How online shopping and cheap prices are turning Americans into hoarders. which The At,antic published published on August 21, 2018. I found it here: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/we-are-all-accumulating-mountains-of-... , via pocket. She points out and illustrates with some examples how the ease of shopping makes it so easy to do that, for many, it is difficult not to. She also notes that online shoppers get a double dopamine hit, first when they buy the goods, and again when they actually receive them, compounding the potential for addiction and the difficulty in stopping. According to her information, over 100 million people have signed up for Amazon Prime ( at $119 a year just for the sometimes preferential pricing and full time free shipping). The thing is that it is generally a PITA to return stuff you buy online, and a lot of it is pretty cheap, so many wind up keeping it. In 2017, we spent 240 Billion busks on stuff, in just that one year. Not only are we, as individuals, accumulating huge piles of stuff, so are charities, thrift stores, second hand stores and the like. They are deluged, per the article, with tons of stuff that is often new or nearly so, sufficient to create a glut on the market for such stuff among those who shop such locales and, hence, a ton of it winds up in landfills.
On a clearly related note, she points out that:
At the same time we are amassing all this stuff, Americans are taking up more space. In 2017, the average size of a single-family house in America was 2,426 square feet, a 23 percent increase in size from two decades ago, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The number of self-storage units is rapidly increasing, too: There are around 52,000 such facilities nationally; two decades ago, there were half that number.
So, as a society, we annually buy store, donate, and discard huge amounts of goods. Not discussed by the author is the fact that there is tons of packaging and shipping materials associated with all of those goods, which also wind up in landfills.
On her way to a somewhat extensive and detailed look at how much we waste and discard, as well as how much is donated or simply left behind in dorm rooms and such, she drops a little tidbit, that is far more sinister that it looks. This is a self-reinforcing cycle to some extent:
And as consumers demand cheaper clothing, electronics, and other goods, manufacturers are spending less to make them, which sometimes means they fall apart more quickly. The share of large household appliances that had to be replaced within five years grew to 13 percent in 2013, up from 7 percent in 2004.
I'm sure that much the same can be said for most classes of goods, at least to some extent. I'm not going to get into the donate and discard detail, it is there in the article, which is an easy and interesting enough read, but will note that the above aside on stuff needing replacement has an effect that is presaged in the article:
Fifty years ago, the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick coined a phrase for these “useless objects” that accumulate in a house: “kipple.” In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which served as the basis for the movie Blade Runner, he theorized that “the entire universe is moving toward a state of total, absolute kippleization.” Kipple reproduced, Dick wrote, when nobody was around. The ubiquity of mobile devices and the ease of online shopping have made Dick’s prediction come true, with one small tweak: Our kipple does not just multiply on its own, every time we turn away. We grow it ourselves, buying more and more of it, because we can.
And therein lies a segue into a most interesting short article from Gizmodo, https://gizmodo.com/dont-buy-anyone-a-ring-camera-1840070640 by Adam Clark Estes. It gives numerous reasons why nobody should buy or gift a "Ring" doorbell camera gadget (or own one for that matter, imo.) If you really must have one, for security, they suggest two alternatives, but really, why? Henry J Kaiser is credited with the business advice to “find a need and fill it.”, but, as well know, Bernays and the rest of the marketing professionals preferred to create a need and fill it. Often this is done by kindling some fear and then fanning it into a flame quenchable only by buying Pepsodent, Charmin, Pepsi, a Lincoln, or whatever. In this case the thing to fear is everyone else. Anybody arriving on your porch, even if they ring the bell, and the answer is the handy Ring spycam. Ring was never a good thing for the reasons described in the Gizmodo article, but it became worse, of course, in the hands of Jeff Bezos. And here is the hilarious tie-in to both the Atlantic article and Philip K. Dick's intuition as to kippleization. There may be some tiny point to front porch security. No, muggers don't walk up and ring the bell, not with any frequency at any rate, but, especially as xmastide nears, package thieves do start to manifest themselves, at least in certain neighborhoods where it is easy to indulge in such thievery. And what, pray tell are the vast majority of these package thieves stealing? All that crap that Amazon is shipping to everybody, that's what, and you can protect yourself from losing it by simply buying one more piece of crap from, who else but Amazon. It is to laugh, it is to weep.
Title Image is amazon
It's an open thread, so have at it. The floor is yours