Tag Archives: industrialization

Is Busyness the Beginning of the End of the World?

end of the world, fall of civilization, overpopulation, crowding, society, industrialization

Creative Commons: by Chris Devers, Flickr

These days everyone is busy busy busy. In fact we become so busy that we don’t have time to socialize. Let’s think back six hundred years to those good old feudal times. If you weren’t some rich noble gathering the tithes then you were either a farmer or a merchant. In either case you worked from sun-up probably near to sundown. Winters meant doing more work inside, mending and preparing for the planting season. Everyone, whether bakers or dyers or smiths, worked long hours. But they stopped in time for dinner and spending time with their families in the evening.

With the advent of industrialized society some aspects eased for a person’s life. We no longer had to tend animals, weave our own cloth, sew our own clothes, cook and prepare all of our dinners. Mass production made this easier while at the same time people began to worry about having no way to make a living as machines took over. We became a leisure society. Or did we?

We’re two to three hundred years into industrialization and we’re probably dealing with as much spare time as medieval Europe had. I’m like many people. I work a day job but I also freelance, to make ends meet, to have extra money. Our society has become so burdened by all those industrialized items that the cost of living has not equaled the everyday person’s wage. Houses (here in Vancouver at least) are astronomical in cost and two people have to work, plus have a rental suite just to afford to own one. Hockey tickets are out of the range of the average working family who might want to take the kids to see a game.

All great societies eventually fall, even Rome. In the past they often fell to invaders, but we are looking at a worldwide crisis with economy and culture. Riots happen, and many clashes still of ideologies and beliefs, overcrowding, lack of good water or food… we might be in our fall right now. So what comes next?

Unfortunately, building on a crumbling foundation will create more instability or lead us to the same problems time and again. Having a society based on always selling more, not just selling the same, means that it’s unsustainable. Soon we will not have enough space, time, money, land, food, water or merchandise. If we do continue with expanding populations, which give us more money, etc. then we risk and are already at risk of having no resources to support our planet. We will have more disease and more poverty, more pollution and more strife. You can see it happening already. Canada’s population is dropping somewhat. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If everyone person only produced one child (so a couple could have two) then they would make a stable population that stayed the same.

In the middle ages the bubonic plaque wiped out a third of the known world’s population. It’s one way Mother Nature controls overpopulation. We’ve had H1N1, TB, E. Coli, etc. By the fact that there are more people, it will mean that more will die. As China and India,with over a third of the world’s population, industrialize and crave on the cars and machines that the world already has, we will see the consuming poison many places.  I’m not sure what we can do about this but we have to change our culture and economy so that it is not built on constant growth. We cannot wait for someone else to do it but each of us must start from the ground up. Maybe’s it’s impossible and we’re doomed to implode, and start over in a smaller and simpler world devoid of much. And maybe it will change no matter what. We know for a fact that there have been civilizations (as in towns and cities) for at least 10,000 years, which is not long is the lifespan of the world or even humans for that matter (2.5 million years). But if we’re not careful we could be a small blip in breath of the planet.

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The Disposable Society

Imagine a time when you either wove your own fabric from skeins of wool or cotton, maybe even carding and spinning the wool. Or perhaps you bought the bolt of cloth and made your own garments by hand, or were lucky enough to have a foot treadle sewing machine. If you could you might have bought one fine dress and it was your Sunday dress or suit, worn for years until it wore out. Any garment you had would be recycled as it fell apart, the usable pieces cut out and either made into something else or used to patch a new garment. Nothing was wasted. You wore your shoes until they fell off of you, probably having been repaired and patched as many times as possible.

If you bought (or even if you butchered yourself) part of a cow, you would use every scrap possibly, make soup from bones. Even slight old vegetables or meat that was still good would be cooked or preserved in some way as soup, stews or pickled. Dish water might be reused several times or people would bathe in the same water. Everything was used until it could not be used anymore. Baskets or carts were taken to market laden with goods, and brought back again with different items.

Just think, only one hundred years ago, this was the norm for the average person. Before the age of industrialization it was very much the way and life consisted of one of existence and keeping a roof over your head and feeding you and your loved ones. Communities worked together and spare time was time to socialize because it was rare but everyone needed some fun and leisure.

Once industrialization began, machines could make things faster and cheaper, cutting down on labor (which caused its own problems in labor of course) and soon most people did not need to know how to sew or mend, could own a couple of pairs of shoes and could buy various items easily. As we progressed past the war years, we started to enter the disposable society. Imagine the rationing of World War II when everything from food to rubber was rationed so that the front lines had enough and that equipment could be made towards the war. This would never happen today because there are numerous supply lines from various countries and shipping through various forms of transportation.

You would have an outhouse and if lucky, perhaps a newspaper or magazine, that once read from cover to cover, would be used as toilet paper. If no newspaper, you probably had buckets of leaves. Water was gathered from a pump or a well and heated on a wood stove, the wood which you chopped yourself. You would probably grow many of your own vegetables, raise a few chickens for eggs and if on a farm, you’d be butchering your own meat. Bread was made from scratch as was everything else. What surplus you had was sold for items such as plows, hoes, shoes, ribbons, fabric, treats or other food that you didn’t have, candles, lamp oil, axes, horses, cows, chickens, maybe a book if you were learned and could afford a bit extra.

If you look at your life in contrast to someone’s of a hundred years ago you will have numerous clothes, good and casual, several pairs of shoes or more, and coats for several seasons. You live in a place with many books (if you’re into books) or magazines or newspapers. You have a TV, a computer, a land or cell phone (or both) and a host of other electronic devices that make eating, sleeping, working and leisure time easier. You don’t have to make all your food from scratch or even have a garden. Vegetables and fruit are available year-long, plus exotic foods that only the elite once ate. We throw out clothes when they go out of fashion or get a bit worn. We can buy new clothes for as little as a few bucks.

Most of us don’t even need to take our basket or cart to market, though more and more people are using cloth bags. And this in itself has generated an industry of plastics so cheap that you get a bag with every purchase. The bags are disposable, like the clothes, the slightly worn shoes, a computer three years old, a car that is five years old, a book, jewellery or food in such abundance that we let it go bad. But is it truly disposable? We throw or give these things away and once out of sight, out of mind. But many of these items end up in landfills or garbage heaps or somewhere where they will take a thousand years or more to decompose.

Imagine, in a thousand years we went from the Byzantine Empire to today. Religions were born, societies fell, cultures changed. And now, we constantly waste, all of us. There are countries in the world that are too poor to waste anything, but anyone in western culture, Europe or North America wastes, no matter how good we are at recycling. So that means we all have room to improve. And if we really want to take a look at the popular carbon footprint, then it does not just mean taking the bus instead of driving, or not flying. It means buying foods that are made locally, or grown yourself. These aspects we know, but where do our clothes and our shoes, our computers and iPods come from? How much carbon is used in the manufacture of these items and the shipping of them?

I believe every person could try harder to be less wasteful, which would preserve our resources longer, and really think about that carbon footprint. Money and resources flow through us as if the sluice gates were wide open.  The carbon footprint is everywhere, not just in food or transportation. It’s not an easy solution, nor a fast one and will take years of us looking differently at everything, but maybe we can change our society from being one of disposable and consumeristic to being one of conserving and re-using.

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