Sunday, November 16, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

Last week Brett, Abbey and I attended a lecture at VCU Qatar. It was part of the their 10th Anniversary Celebration. The speaker was Chris Jordan, a former corporate lawyer, who almost by accident became a photographer who chronicles the waste of our planet. He captures the massive scale of refuse that the United States has in his pieces titles Intolerable Beauty, and he does this to wake people up to what we are throwing away and consuming. His lecture became very political, and some people were a little upset about the dismal picture of the U.S. he was painting, mostly because Mr. Jordan was advertising our huge shortcomings to a Middle Eastern audience that doesn't need any more evidence to despise America.

Nonetheless, the lecture was quite interesting. Abbey sat for the whole hour snapping photos of the images Mr. Jordan shared. Not only does this photographer capture the waste of America, he helps us digest the enormity of that waste by physically capturing the total number of say the amount of computer hard drives thrown away in a four hour period, or the masses of cell phones (426,000) discarded in one day. He does this by mathematically figuring out smaller chunks of waste, photgraphing that, and then scaling that up with the computer. Then he also explains the impact this waste has on our environment. Every cell phone has a component that can only be obtained from a tree or plant in a South American country - the only location on our planet for this natural resource. To harvest this resource there has significant enviromental impact. As he showed us his photography he had a very important environmental message.

When Jordan began his self-appointed mission and found himself discovering all the waste of one country, he said he felt like he had been in Disneyland all his life, enjoying the rides and the wonder of the surroundings, and then when he began seeing the landfills full of our refuse, he felt like he was walking behind the scenes of Disneyland, where the ugly workings were exposed and uncovered. The illusion of America as the land of plenty turned into the reality of America as the land of disposal and consumerism. Check out this video of part of his presentation to Inhabitat at their Greener Gadgets 2008 Conference. Scroll down to find the video.

We came away from Mr. Jordan's presentation very thoughtful and ashamed of our own consumerism. Whenever I have used a paper towel this week I found myself feeling guilty. Jordan's images were from America, but Qatar has big issues with consumerism as well. So much is thrown away every day all over the planet. I grew up with parents who lived through the Depression. They are not consumers. They use and reuse almost to a fault. Come on Mom, how many times can a person resuse a Ziploc bag without it being a health hazard? So I have been thinking about how I can consume less and recycle more. What are your suggestions? My daughter Kristy has been very proactive about this. I guess I want to join the throngs of people who are becoming more aware of their environmental footprint. I think there are those people who carry this hyperawareness too far, but where is the happy medium where I can feel good about my stewardship over this planet? How do you take care of our planet?


Amy said...

That's very interesting! I was saddened moving away from VA to find that Utah had NO curbside recycling. It made me so sad to have to throw away things that could so easily be recyled. Well, I'm happy to report that our neighborhood just received their curbside recycling cans this past week! I'm excited to do a small yet significant part.

Josh said just the other day, "It's too bad that we can't figure out a way to turn dirty diapers into some sort of fuel." Maybe that will be the next big project in alternative energy.

Kristy said...

Wow, those pictures are crazy. It's scary to think about how much STUFF we throw away! Thanks for the shout-out!

Richardson Family said...

Wow. I think it is really great you two are concerned. I don't think enough people care at all. The overboard "tree-huggers" are few and far between in my view. Most people I know (including myself) don't think enought about it. London is very aware of it though and has helped me to be more so.
In school, they covered a unit on recyling and she has been on us all ever since.
Thanks. Very interesting.

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

What a great blog you have here :)

Angie and Matt said...

Hi Dianna I love looking at your blog! It's so fun to read all about your adventures. It sounds like the wedding went well. You have such a cute family!
I wanted to let you know that I am making my blog private...if you want an invite stop by and let me know your email.