Research – The Materials Economy

To better understand the Materials economy, I watched this short animated video that dissects each part of the process, showing how it’s not sustainable.

The materials economy is a linear system that runs from extraction, to production, to distribution, to consumption, and finally to disposal. The materials economy is in crisis, as you can’t run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely, its simply not sustainable. In reality, the cycle interacts with societies, economies, and the environment, and conflicts against limits.

The Government

The Government hold a key role in the cycle, they should be the voice of the people, ie me and you.

The Corporation

They in fact have the majority of the power. Out of the 100 biggest economies of the planet, the corporation owns 51 compared to the governments 49. As the corporations have grown, it is evident that the power shift has meant the government are bowing down to the corporations and making sure everything is running smoothly for them, instead of focusing on looking after society.

Extraction

A word for natural resource exploitation. In other words, we as humans taking natural resources to produce products for our own consumption. We chop down the trees, take metals from mountains, we use up all the water and contaminate it, thus killing the animals in which they have built their habitats. This is what is meant by running up against limits, we are running out of resources in which to produce the products. We are using to much stuff!

In the past three decades we have used a third of the planets natural resources. In the us alone, they have less than 4% of the original forests are left, and 40% of the waterways are undrinkable. They have 5% of the worlds population, but using 30% of the worlds natural resources, using more than their fair share. If everyone consumed at the rate the use did, we would need 5 planets worth of materials. 80% of the worlds original forests have gone. 2000 trees a minute are cut down in the amazon alone.

Many wealthy countries externalise production and take materials from what is known as the third world countries, the ones with less money and less power than the wealthy countries. To the people that live in these third world countries, the governments and corporations believe they don’t own the natural resources, so they can take them as they please. They don’t own the means of production and they don’t buy a lot of things, so they don’t contribute to the cycle in anyway, thus not important to the governments and corporations.

Production

After the extraction process, the raw materials are then put into production to produce products that we buy in stores from the corporations. In this process, electricity, a dirty and harmful product for the environment in many cases, is used to drive the machinery which mixes toxic chemicals, also bad for the environment, and the natural resources to make toxic contaminated products.

There are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals used in commerce today, and only a handful of them have been tested.

The people that bare the brunt of the toxic chemicals are the factory workers themselves. They are often of reproductive age, and this is evident through the amount of toxins found in breast milk. This means that even our young are getting a huge dose of toxic chemicals as soon as they are born! A massive 200,000 people are day are being driven out of their natural habitats and moving to the city because they simply have no choice. This means the corporations have a constant supply of workers that contribute to the economy. With the amount of people searching for work, this means the competition for jobs is high and the corporations have the pick of anyone they want, driving the wage price thus externalising the costs of the product for the corporations.

So, toxics in, toxics out. We are harming ourselves without even knowing it half the time. Although products come out the end of the process for consumption, many products come out as by products produced by the factories which is known as pollution. In the US as much as 4000,000,000lbs worth of toxic pollution is produced each year, and nobody wants to live amongst that, so the governments move them overseas to third world countries. However this has gone against them as winds push them back to the US, polluting their air.

Distribution

The selling of products to the consumer. The key to distribution is to keep the shoppers shopping, driving the price of the product down. This is done by externalising the cost, meaning the true cost of the product isn’t represented in the price. The product is actually of higher value, however people pay for the product all along the cycle from the loss of their natural habitat, to the health implications of the factory workers, to the poorly paid shop assistant selling the goods.

“The Golden Arrow of Consumption”

It has become vitally important for the government and the corporations to protect this arrow, as it drives the economy and keeps them wealthy. After 9/11 happened, president Bush didn’t say to grieve or to be upset, but to shop! 99% of good produced are thrown away within 6 months. This means that we as consumers are sucked in to buy more and more stuff.

The process was “designed”. After world war 2, the corporations designed a way to keep economies growing. A retail analyst named Victor Lebow working for the government said  “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption, we need things consumed, burned up, and replaced at an ever-acceleration rate”.

Planned Obsolesce

In other words designed for the dump. This was implemented to get us to buy more. The shorter the shelf life the more products we would buy to replace them, however at what impact on the environment and peoples lives.

I noticed recently an article about leaked images of the new Iphone 7. True to speculation, Apple are planning on removing the generic  auxiliary cable which has been in use for years now, providing an port in which external headphones or speakers  can be attached. This is a ploy to get consumers to bin their old headphones and use the new all in one thunderbolt adapter that is produced only buy Apple. This will give the corporation a monopoly in the market if successful.

 

Perceived Obsolesce

 

 

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