Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page
In so many ways this story is México.
A thoroughly good read, and one (at least in parts) that echoes my own points…. I mean in regards to the privatisation of intellectual work and thus public thought. And that this is particularly pernicious *now* because hundreds of millions of children (of all ages) are routinely and necessarily using computer technology and proprietary software for all classroom work. (Sure, they also use those fine branded pens and pencils and pads of paper, but you don’t need a special hand to use the pencil or pen or special tools to use any such equipment, and it can be read simply by learning the secret codes, which are taught for free, usually, to all.)
So the question is this:
* A lifetime of licenses routinized into the cost of living, and invisible in the enormous harm such a licensed life would put in play if only by suturing close the possibilities of having it some other way; or
* A lifetime open to innovation, collaboration, production unencircumscribed by closed licenses; markets would be built and profits made on the merit of one’s work and not on the right to work itself.
Why are Americans fat? And it’s not just they: it’s a global phenomenon. Sure, it has to do with sugary drinks, sugared foods, and a general avalanche of low-glycemic processed foods that, bite by bite, taste almost good enough but never quite. And, sure, it has to do with modern urbanism and the wholesale destruction of traditional foods and eating patterns. Used to be we didn’t eat in-between meals, unless we were particularly unable to repress our animal instincts and thus uncouth. No longer. Used to be that fancy foods were fancy for a reason and rare because they were fancy; no longer. And used to be that eating alone was a sign of abject loneliness and something avoided. Now, it doesn’t matter if one eats in a group: quite often what I eat is not what you eat, and we thus find ourselves alone while in the company of others. But this is the nature of maximal consumerism.
But I would suggest another point, one raised a while ago by some researchers who tallied the total amount of unexported calories produced in the US and divided it by the population. I don’t have the reference, but far more are produced daily than can be consumed even by the most stalwart of eaters. The result is that, as has been noted by Pollan and others, too much food is way too cheap; and also abundant. And as there is competition in the selling and buying of it, big-box logic prevails, so that one is hounded by the suspicion that what you bought now could have been bought cheaper elsewhere, and that it makes no sense at all to be pennywise when it costs so little in the medium term (forget long) to pay a little more and get so much, so much more, and all in big boxes. Worse being that much of what was just bought is probably perishable. You’ve got to eat it, else, you are simply throwing money away–never mind that it’s food you are throwing away, or at least, its reasonable facsimile thereof.
Too much food too cheap packaged too big and sold brilliantly to those removed from corner stores and markets (where one can get individual portions, say, and where anonymity doesn’t work)–all these things make for fat people. This is not new. And the obvious solution is not new either: Food should cost the consumer (able to afford it; no need to punish the already deprived) what it actually costs. And actual cost includes the impact on the environment, on the health of the consumer; includes the packaging, the resources used, and so on. It is not simply predicated on market value, but on that new category we really need to confront, Real Cost.
But how is Real Cost determined? There are efforts and rather good ones already initiated. And as this is a new thing, the algorithms and considerations will surely change as we gain a deeper understanding of the issues. For instance, remember how it was thought that eating food grown locally was always better? It’s not. Sometimes, it’s *more* expensive and *more* energy consuming than food grown far away and shipped in vast container vessels. But let’s promote equal labour, and take all the hidden costs and benefits into account. There could even be an app for that, one that calculates the Real Cost of this or that thing– But that’s a personal solution, and the real, effective solution must necessarily be one used by the populace at large.
The point, and one I’ve long argued for, as have many: if public money is used to fund and publish research, then it ought to be made freely accessible to the public that paid for it.
Mexico City is facing another crisis, besides the water, food, pollution, crime, governance, etc. It has to do with garbage, which every city is now or will face. The interesting point about the article I cite lies in the last paragraphs, where the issue of getting rid of the trash includes the very difficult one, Who owns the trash before the city takes it?
In 2009, the Mexican federal government suspended plans for building Centros Integrales de Reciclado y Energía (CIRE – Integral Waste-to-Energy Plants) because of heated opposition from local residents in the locations chosen. The CIREs are intended to make use of organic waste to produce compost, recycle inorganic materials and generate electricity.The 2003 Federal Waste Law regulates waste management and procedures for opening and closing waste dumps, but does not clarify who owns the garbage – the source producer, the collector or the waste dump manager? – until such time as it reaches the hands of the municipal or federal authorities, which complicates the use of garbage for profit.\
Not particularly surprising, indeed, the opposite, at least for any of us who actually work in the industry and use (and experiment with) social media. The challenge is not exactly to bring in outsiders, so to speak, but rather to retain those who have joined. There are intangibles but they are not by any means unidentifiable nor even that difficult to work with. And there is a literature to this, including early 20th century advertising but very likely antedating it. Still, I tend to believe the modern notion of community depends hugely on the modern notions of nation.