Why People Live in a Disposable Society and How to Change It
Consumerism seems to be part of the past and innovation and technological development is now the newest kid on the block.
Could it be that in addition to having been taught to feel inadequate, to mirror ourselves on celebrities and so-called successful people, we were also taught the habit of using and discarding?
Is it possible that consumerism is not only something we taught ourselves but something that was sawn into our lives, our human fabric, by a group of business people who attempted to guarantee that society would bankroll their companies and lifestyles for decades into the future?
Is that model of societal control coming to an end or has it already come to an end?
One of the latest examples that may help illustrate the purported end of the consumerist society is Apple’s iPhone. As the world awaits the release of the new iPhone 7, not even Apple itself seems to be sure that the newest version of its flagship product will save its business for the upcoming years.
Has the consumerist society peaked? If the peak has arrived, what does that mean for the current development model in the first world, where most of the newest products are bought, and in the developing world, where technology usually arrives with some delay?
The idea that consumerism has been drawn into our DNA comes from the premise that technological obsolescence, the concept that things are made to have a limited lifespan, so that people must go out and buy a new version of the objects they love, stems from documents dating from the early 20th century, in which industry leaders agreed to limit the utility of artifacts such as light bulbs, cars and others.
In the case of light bulbs, their lifespan was purposely reduced from 2500 hours to just 1000 hours. This reduction in their life guaranteed that consumers would need to go out and buy new bulbs sooner, which would keep light bulb assembly lines going forever. Yes, all known light bulb brands knew about this and were supportive of the decision.
Technological obsolescence seems to be a policy that industry has embedded in their products. That is what BBC’s documentary “The Men who Made us Spend” shows.
What’s next after consumerism dies?
So what is next for a society whose consumerist lifeline seems to be dwindling down?
While the world seems to be surrounded by a cloud of pessimism regarding its economic and political future, and while bad news seem to hide the slightest sign of good news, consumerism seems to be part of the past and innovation and technological development is now the newest kid on the block.
As consumerism dies, perhaps humanity can concentrate efforts on working together to solve some of the problems it has left aside while it was busy blowing credit card spending limits for the past five decades.
This seems to be the case at Singularity University, where people work day and night to solve some of the greatest problems that humanity faces today, such as providing clean drinking water to those who don’t have access to it by tapping into ocean water, or growing food in places where the weather or environmental conditions would not ordinarily permit it.
The so-called Singularity is a concept that has been strongly criticized for it seems to be concentrated to a great extent on providing immortality to those who can afford to pay for it, which is obviously not most of the planet’s population. But along with initiatives of that sort, there are other parallel plans and programs stemming from private initiatives that have developed technologies to make it simple to produce food in the middle of the desert or to turn ocean water into tap water via very simple means.
Although for the past half a century human ingenuity has been used to produce tech toys and weapons to destroy one another, necessity seems to be drawing our attention now to produce solutions that will guarantee access to food and water to everyone on the planet.
As crisis after crisis seems to shake the world, Peter Diamandis still thinks that our future is bright. The co-founder of Singularity University believes that technology will soon help satisfy basic needs such as energy, water, food, healthcare and education. That is how he explains his vision of the future in a documentary titled “A Future of Abundance“.
The documentary, that features other entrepreneurs who are invested in offering alternatives to food scarcity, drought and lack of health services, explains how technological advancement is already on top of solving the challenges of a rapidly evolving world; one that experiences important changes not on a yearly basis, but on a daily basis.
According to Diamandis, technological advances, when properly put into practice, will solve major problems in the next twenty or thirty years and that reality will turn situations that currently seem as problematic, into opportunities to bring about abundance.
If you prefer to stay away from the Singularity University, there are plenty of other projects that are working on the same premises and with similar goals. One of them is the Sahara Forest Project, a pilot initiative in Qatar where operators combine the use of solar energy and water desalination to produce food in the middle of the desert.
In addition to Qatar, initiatives like the Sahara Forest Project are being developed in Tunisia and Jordan.
By establishing a saltwater value chain, the Sahara Forest Project will make electricity generation from concentrated solar power (CSP) more efficient, operate energy- and water-efficient saltwater-cooled greenhouses for growing high value crops in the desert, produce freshwater for irrigation or drinking, safely manage brine and harvest useful compounds from the resulting salt, grow biomass for energy purposes without competing with food cultivation, and revegetate desert lands. The synergies arising from integrating the technologies improve performance and economics compared to those of the individual components.
The three most important elements of projects such as the Sahara Forest Project include using sea water to cool down greenhouses where food is grown, using solar energy for electricity and heat generation, and implementing practices for desert revegetation.
In case you are not into following and are more interested in doing it all yourself, there are plenty of ways to DIY and to quickly make your way out of perpetual dependence on traditional wasteful practices or government-sponsored programs, and to transform your own project into a community-wide initiative.
It is via personal, local and communal initiatives that you can learn how to be self-sufficient. From keeping yourself and your family healthy to learning how to prepare for seemingly unexpected situations to guaranteeing a reliable food supply away from supermarket chains; there is more than enough information out there to create your own version of the Sahara Forest Project.
It gets even better, though. The possibility to provide yourself with enough food, water and energy is within your reach if you know where to look. From water survival guides to disaster preparedness to self-sufficiency on a tight budget; there is a world of solutions that you can access as soon as you make the decision that no matter how dark the future looks, it is in your hands to make it look bright for yourself.
As the age of wasteful consumerism seems to be coming to an end, it is time for people to embed self-reliance into their lives and to pass on the values of innovation and development down to the next generations. As unbelievable as it may seem, advances in health, technology and preparedness and whether or not you have access to them, do not depend on corporations or wealthy men who finance daring initiatives. It depends on you.