simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Consumption
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Tuesday, 16 October 2007


A friend called this morning to let me know that today is Blog Action Day where participating bloggers do a posting on an environmental issue. This is good timing, since I have wanted to do something on the clutter of newsboxes in the city. These boxes are typically extremely unattractive (with disparate sizes and colors) and poorly maintained - filthy, stickered, broken, with some even being used as trash receptacles. I intended to show two sets of boxes - a hideous strip and the much more attractive approach as seen here on Park Avenue (here is an article indicating this may be a trend). I intended to call the posting "Solution", which it is at some level. But I am rethinking my position. It may be a solution if there is no reduction of production and distribution of this type of literature, but perhaps we need to reevaluate the need for materials like this to be printed at all. The three Rs of waste management, reduce, reuse, recycle form a hierarchical pyramid with the most favored option at the top - reduction, and recycling at the bottom. Some studies have already shown that recycling is a net energy loss. Unfortunately the three Rs are applied selectively - consumption is built into the fabric of American culture with shopping and malls as recreation. Reduction is not seriously looked at by most citizens. No one really wants to make sacrifices on the consumption side. Activists like Reverend Billy with his stop shopping message (click here) and organizations like Burningman are lone voices, frequently seen as fringe elements of society. With the Internet, electronic media and portable devices such as the iPhone, laptops and ereaders, we are at an optimal place in time to really reduce printed materials and move towards the elusive paperless office, predicted as far back as 1975 (in an article in Business Week). Unfortunately, technology has given us the ability to created more paper documents and the amount has been growing. I am more of a stick than a carrot person, so I believe there will need to be penalties, sanctions and legislation for us to break our consumptive habits and effective change to begin. I understand that a society needs an economic engine and that commerce is a necessary component, but we need to achieve some balance with appropriate consumption before we are buried in trash ...


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