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.

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