America The Throw-Away Society

Take a step back and look at what America has become: A throwaway society built upon the ideals of big corporations whose only goal is to sell as much product as they can, as quickly as possible.

It all started with capitalism, the concept upon which the American dream is built. Everything you ever want is out there, and it’s waiting to become yours. Everything is there for the purchasing. Capitalism is built upon money, and to get it, you either work a job or better yet, start your own business.

In the early days of the Industrial revolution, products started to become mass-produced. Instead of everything being a one-of-a-kind item which had to be made by hand, we now have a multitude of exact copies of a specific product. The brain child behind this new concept was the introduction of interchangeable parts, which when assembled, made these clone-like products. Along with it came the assembly line, which not only provided many jobs, but allowed companies to produce products like never before.

Later on, the American dream gradually shifted towards including material possessions. Shopping eventually became a popular past time, and we began to spend money on things we wanted in addition to things that we needed.

Then came the era of chain stores that purchased mass-produced products in such a huge quantity that they could then be sold at a very low price. Low prices are ideals in American society because it means that not only can we save more of our money, but we can still afford to buy the things we want (a.k.a. luxury items).

In recent times we have seen the formation of huge corporations such as Wal-Mart and Target, two of the biggest chain stores that ever existed. This is a prime example of capitalism gone crazy; stores that could afford to buy enormous quantities of product, sell it for less cost than their neighboring competitor stores, and stay open 24 hours a day.

For large corporations and their suppliers, selling product just wasn’t enough. There had to be a way to force consumers to come back to purchase more product. A solution was devised that would not only cut costs, but would force the consumer to return to the store to buy more product. The solution was to begin to introduce disposable products.

Now, instead of consumers coming to buy just one piece of product, companies forced consumers to use their product for a short time, throw it away, and come back to the store to buy more of their product. The problem was first voiced by environmentalists once landfills began to fill up beyond capacity.

Recycling soon became the obvious solution, so companies again took advantage and started producing products that could be recycled instead of ending up in landfills. The problem with this scenario is that in reality, very few people recycle their waste because it is easier to just throw it away.

Once the garbage business was in full swing and demand became high, so did the cost of disposal. As is the American way, money is more important than our environment. Instead of recycling, or at the very least, proper disposal, people just went outside and threw their garbage wherever was most convenient. Rivers, lakes, and steams were the most popular because they had a tendency to wash away garbage; out of sight, out of mind, and someone elses’ problem became the mindset.

Large companies, who had spent a small portion of their end profits on disposal of the waste created by manufacturing got into the habit of dumping hazardous materials into nearby bodies of water. New York City’s Hudson River is a prime example of this; the water is contaminated with all sorts of chemicals like PCB’s.

It has unfortunately reached the level where one need not look far to see what others left behind. Drive down any roadway and you will see Styrofoam cups and plastic bags strewn all over the place. Walk deep enough into the woods, and you might encounter a junked car or two that is riddled with bullet holes.

Sadly, the stream behind my property has become a local dumping ground. It began with a car rim last Summer. Then a red car door. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, someone let an old ride-on lawnmower roll down an embankment by itself. I’m not trying to figure out who is responsible for these irresponsible acts, but I do plan to do some extra cleanup during the spring and summer months in a feeble attempt to discourage this activity.

I’ll probably post a video or two of the cleanup to document the progress. Unfortunately, due to the size and location of the lawnmower, it is too heavy for me to remove, and it is also on private property so I couldn’t access and remove it even if I devised a plan to do so.

As always, more to come. In the meantime, please do yourself and everyone else a favor by encouraging your community to recycle and keep litter and garbage out of all the places where it doesn’t belong, even if it’s your own property.

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