Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Disposable Disposition

"Somewhere west of Laramie there's a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I'm talking about." This is the first sentence of the now famous 173-word advertisement for the Jordan Motor Car Company that appeared in the 1920's The age of modern advertising began in this decade.

By 1925 seventy percent of the total income for magazines and newspapers came from ad revenue. Ad agencies with their well-paid specialists opened up offices on Madison Avenue in New York. Mass marketing had arrived. Anything could be sold to the public these modern day alchemists told their clients, and they were mostly right.

Some 78 years after the American stock market crashed in 1929 ending the Roaring Twenties, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we Americans are number one in the world in terms of the amount of garbage and rubbish we produce. The average American manages to create about 4.5 pounds per day. Our closest competitor, Canada, generates around 3.75 pounds of trash daily.

The typical American today is exposed to about 3,000 advertising messages a day. Worldwide, global corporations spend more than $600 billion a year to advertise.

The United States has become the quintessential land of hyper-consumption, planned obsolescence, disposable "stuff" and, yes, credit card debt. E-waste (computers, televisions, copy machines, etc.) is now the fastest growing portion of our disposable world. Much of this discarded equipment, containing lead and numerous toxic chemicals, is shipped to developing nations, where it is stripped down, usually by people that have no idea of the kinds of risks they and their children may be exposed to.

We are, however, according to The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, no longer the leading producer in the world of carbon dioxide, the most pervasive greenhouse gas and contributor to global warming. China surpassed us in 2006 in the amount of annual CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere.

China's economy is growing rapidly and, of the more than 1 billion inhabitants, it's estimated that approximately 300 million are aspiring members of China's newly expanding "middle class." At least another one billion people in the developing world are right behind China; they as well are determined to acquire the disposable life. "I want to be like Mike," as the Nike commercial once proclaimed proudly throughout the world.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bada Bada Bing

The Sopranos, America's fictional, dysfunctional family, finally faded into the sunset Sunday night. But I woke up this morning to learn once again that real dysfunction is alive and well in the U.S.A. and healthier than ever.

The latest Gallup Poll pointed out that the majority of people surveyed, some 1,007 adults, believed that "both" are likely explanations when the question was asked whether we humans are a result of God's creation or evolution over millions of years. Yes, those that subscribe to the creationism theory believe we arrived in our present form within the last 10,000 years--the beginning of the Neolithic period as scientists often refer to the time period.

Not surprisingly, 68% of people that call themselves Republicans don't believe in evolution. Unfortunately, however, 37% of Independents and 40% of Democrats do not believe in evolution, not insignificant minorities.

I liked the ending of The Sopranos because, while offering some possibilities, we weren't absolutely certain what would happen to Tony and his family, sort of like how the world really works. We can speculate. Are you inclined to be optimistic or pessimistic?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Around and Around

Missouri, the state where I live, according to an Associated Press analysis, has increased its carbon dioxide emissions some 32% between 1990 and 2003, while the state's population grew no more than 13% by the A.P. reckoning. The primary reason seems to be the increasing use of coal as an energy source.

About half of America's electricity comes from burning coal at this point in time in the United States. It's "cheap" and plentiful. States also vary considerably in their greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to decisions to use coal an an energy source.

The state of Texas emits more CO2 than most countries do. On a per-person use, Wyoming, one of the least populous states, sends out more carbon dioxide than any other state in the U.S. Both of these states burn a lot of coal. Electricity is cheaper in these states than many others but of course pollution and greenhouse gases are not remotely interested in state boundaries and travel everywhere, including to those states that don't use coal an an energy source.

Idaho, on a per person basis, emits the least amount of CO2. California, the most populous state, has decreased its CO2 emissions more than 10% from 1990 to 2003, and New York has lowered its CO2 levels. These states have either outlawed the burning of coal or have sought alternatives to reduce its impact.

There is no particular reason to think that the U.S. will develop national energy standards anytime soon or that the world will develop global standards to reduce greenhouse gases in the next several years. Perhaps if we decide to put a value on clean air, water and biodiversity we may have a chance to get beyond infantile "voluntary" mechanisms in the U.S. and belligerent "entitlement" from countries like China and India.

In the meantime turn the pressure up.