Saturday, December 01, 2007

Can We Preserve Our Earth and Our Economy at the Same Time?

According to the EPA, each of us generates about 4.5 pounds of trash a day; 10 million tons of it, unwanted clothing, making us the most wasteful country on earth. That's not hard to believe considering we spend a total of $282 billion on new clothes annually. Each American, on average, discards 68 pounds of the clothing we already have to make room for more than 75 brand new clothing items each of us purchase every year. Our closets are now the size more typical of an extra bedroom 40 years ago according to Time Magazine and inadequate closet space is regarded today as the biggest impediment to selling an older house. The US is number one among the world's top ten apparel importers, bringing in more textile than the other nine nations combined.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says per-person consumption of textile fiber in the United States is double that of Spain, four times that of China, and almost seven times India's. Currently, Americans buy 40 T-shirts per household annually, 94 percent of them imported. In 2003, four new pairs of shoes were imported for each American.

However, landfills are not the biggest problem generated by our gluttonous accumulation of body cloth...fiber production, manufacturing and dyeing is. The process of creating clothes, including the resources going into fabric; its production; dyeing, printing and finishing impact our environment much more than storing the unwanted wearables we dispose of. Not to mention, the methods used to make fabric from renewable raw materials are no better.

Translation:It's almost impossible to purchase new clothing, given the high environmental cost and at the same time, be environmentally responsible whether you purchase "green" or not. If you want to save our planet, stop stuffing your closets with new apparel.

That sounds easy enough but if every American curbed their clothing addiction, supposedly our economy would cease to thrive, or would it?

Not necessarily, because so much of our economic policy is made based on maximizing the corporation's ability to make profits and to increase the wealth of our richest citizens therefore if we cushion the blow to our economy by making the corporation and CEO's excessive wealth take the initial hit instead of the masses we could transition into a healthy economy where the addiction of the consumer is not necessary to the growth of the economy. This way even if we curb our apparel addiction, our economy will continue to thrive if we change the equation back to "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" from the way it is now, "government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations”.

What choice do we have? If we overwhelm our limited natural resources and fragile ecosystem, upon which all our lives depend, we will cease to thrive.
"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, April, 1967

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