The consumer world is such a cornucopia of cheap goodies that it makes my mind spin. At the most basic level food particularly high fat and high caloric government subsidized food is so cheap that its led to a flood of obesity. It seems to me I heard that about 30% of children are considered overweight, which I take to mean unhealthy. Some years ago the first reports of overweight Chinese children started making the rounds. China was a nation of forced collectivization and starvation when I was young.
Adam Smith’s fabled “invisible hand” is pulling nature out of the Earth at phenomenal rates everywhere as free enterprise helps release human ingenuity which makes use of nature’s bounty. Look at this comparison of what we could buy for a typical month’s income
when I was a teenager compared to what a month’s average earnings would buy today.
Now think about obsolescence and replacement and recycling.
When I was a kid far fewer people could afford televisions. My wife and I kept an old black and white motorola for almost twenty years. How long will today’s televisions be kept before something fancier replaces them. High Def is likely to be replaced by 3D or something else pretty soon. Camera’s, flash drives, mice, peripherals are very easy to toss in the trash today. I pay recyclers 9something I wager a lot of people don’t do) to take them off my hands hoping that they don’t simply forward them to third world countries for low paid workers to smelt down.
Every ounce of precious metal we landfill is an ounce we will likely want to dig out of the earth pulling up with it sulfides like those that were burned in Ohio power plants creating acid rain that defoliated much of the Appalachian Mountains through the end of the last century.
We are a prolific nation and we are becoming a prolific world. Even if global warming was not caused by human activity (a proposition I consider highly dubious) we are managing to find other ways to tip the earth towards other generalist species like seagulls, rats, cockroaches, and other human friendly species. Animals that live in confined locations are the ones subject to extinction. Even animals that have thrived over huge swaths of Earth like those in the polar regions are all under threat if that landscape changes radically. That’s not just polar bears but hundreds of species of birds that nest for the temperate months at high latitudes.
These changes are recurrent in Earth’s Geologic experience. Just two million years ago Greenland was largely ice free if I can believe the National Geographic. That’s within the lifetime of nearly modern humans.
Just as “we the people” are responsible for making sure our habitat is not despoiled by reckless deep sea oil drilling we have the responsibility to manage the other disposable resources after we’re finished with them. Its a responsibility we can shirk for the sake of convenience but when we take the easy way we impose some future tax on whichever generation takes it upon itself to clean up our mess.