Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oprah's extra

Yesterday on Oprah, she had on people who made the conscious choice to dumpster dive. This was the first, according to Oprah, that she’s heard of people doing this practice who didn’t need to. One woman used to make “six figures” until she saw that the only reason she kept working to such a degree was to fill her life with things that she didn’t need. And Oprah asked the poignant question, why are the corporations throwing so much away? The woman brought of the legal issues that they just don’t want to get sued. I have heard that argument when groups like Food Not Bombs have tried to get things from "super"markets. True, laws exist and they can get sued but the real question for me is why the overproduction in the first place? Surely they know how much people buy of their product - but that's not the point though, is it? Because some corporations instead of serving a need create a need… And now it's gotten to a point where food companies are selling food with enzymes in it to help us digest our over-produced food. (If we didn't kill the enzymes needed to digest milk products in pasturization, would we need these yogurts with the bacteria added back in?)

So we wonder why there is so much crap at the end. I didn’t study business but if I were to consider it logically, businesses who over produce probably factor what’s wasted in their bottom line – so on one hand, their creating the need for us to consume based on overproducing, however, if they don’t sell all that’s produced, they still profit because they’ve gone above and beyond the natural need.

And they don’t give away the extra. Why should they? If consumers knew they were giving away what they didn’t sell, who would buy? Wouldn’t we all just wait until we got it free? So they throw it away – and by the act of discarding it, it becomes useless. Until another person looks at it another way and sees the value in the trash. So is that how we solve the problem of overproduction – valuing trash? Reusing, not consuming…

And how then the recycled movement would thrive. And how Goodwill and Salvation army would need to expand their parking lots for all their extra customers…. If only.

I saw today that they’ve put up a mall near the birthplace of Walt Whitman. So as a testament to the iconoclast that railed against consumerism and beheld the natural wonder of life, they’ve erected a mall. Perhaps that’s why the Whitmans moved away from it in Walt’s early years – knowing the kind of people who lived there… (If you want a mug depicting his birthplace, you can get it here). Couldn’t they have put up a Goodwill instead?

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