An artist friend of mine once told me that it is bad marketing in the art world to put a date on your works, because people are not interested in what you made last year, or ten years ago, no matter how great it is; they want to see the latest.
“NEW’” is a tremendously powerful marketing device. It is pretty much standard on personal care products, detergents and pet food, with periodic changes in the line underneath justifying the claim. New, in that sense, means “miraculous” and miracles are hard to pass up.
Newness is what fuels the entire economy. To keep investors happy, production must be increased, which demands increased sales. A simple but effective way to increase sales, is to shorten the life of the product. It is known as ‘planned obsolescence”. This would all not be so bad, were it not that at the other end of it is the landfill.
On the other hand, if it were not for our perennial search for newness, humans would still be living in caves, subsisting on whatever they can gather or kill, and have a life expectancy of less than thirty years.
But in the process, we have unwittingly unleashed tremendous forces that threaten to undo all we have achieved. We must find ways to make those forces work for us instead of against us. We can. We will.
We do. Just last month researchers discovered that CO2, the primary agent of global warming, will solidify rapidly when injected into basalt. Once it’s in the ground, it stays in the ground. They successfully processed 1000 metric tons of it – a drop in the bucket, compared to the 40 billion tons released into the atmosphere annually, but even the biggest things have to start out small. Basalt is the foundation of the earth’s crust, so there is a lot of it, but it is not known if there is enough to take care of the mother load. We’ll have to find out. And there must be other ways as well. If plants can take the O’s out of CO2, so can we.
The legend of Pandora tells that when she peeks into the mystery box, legions of evil spirits escape into the world before she can close it again. One spirit in there, the only good one, is bringing up the rear and gets locked back in. It is the spirit of hope. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Obama, for letting it out again.
This is Dan Laut for the Weekly Green. May there be light on your path and in your heart in the coming year. Thank you for listening.