I live in a constant state of fear: that I should never have less. Everything that I do, including my ambition and my drive is reflective of this fear. There have been times when I’ve stopped to ask myself: how much is enough? At what point am I going to say that I don’t need more? The latest iPhone, the newest PlayStation, the fancy watch… I’m a hedonist, anchored by an extremely pessimistic and misanthropic view of mankind. My outlook towards life is a capitalist’s wet dream. The bitter truth is that I don’t need more. That I have enough and I belong to the top 10% of the country that owns 77% of its wealth.
Hope Jahren’s The Story of More is a difficult and bitter read. Chapter by chapter she strips away our recalcitrance to accept the reality of climate change, and in doing so, takes the reader on a journey that spans not just emissions and thinning ice but the story of consumption that we’ve built for ourselves. Devoid of charts, graphs, and infographics that would have made its content easy to understand, The Story of More is shocking in its scale and scope. Sample the following:
“That half-eaten meal in the garbage – why did we plow that field? Why did we plant those seeds, and water them, and fertilize the soil, and thwart the weeds? Why did we drive the harvester, run the thresher, fill the silo? Why did we deliver the calf from the cow? Herd it to the feedlot? Carry it in pieces from the conveyor belt? Why do we fix the refrigerators, and design the labels, and calculate the vitamin C content, and pave the roads, and change the carburetors so that we can drive, drive, drive meat, bread, fruit, sugar in boxes, bottles, packages to the stores, schools, restaurants, and hospitals? Why do we walk the aisles, examine, select, buy, slice, mash, season, and serve? We spend our lives on these labors – we wake in the morning and leave our homes and we work, work, work to keep the great global chain of procurement in place. Then we throw 40% of everything we just accomplished into the garbage.”
At least 40% of everything that the continent of NA produces goes straight into the garbage. Globally, this is about 33%. Our waste of edible food now equals the amount of food needed to adequately feed all of the undernourished people on Earth. OECD countries, which account for 15% of the world population generate 30% of the world’s organic waste. And this is just one aspect of the many that she covers in the book… On and on with the confidence of a teacher who knows that she’s just shocked and awed her class.
Every decision I take – including the food I just ordered – has an impact on my environment which I’m willfully and blissfully turning a blind eye to. I’m consuming food that my body doesn’t need and buying things that I don’t require, all in the pursuit of flawed ideals that consumerism espouses. Too much and never enough. If there is one book you read this year, let it be this. It has a rating of 4.2 on goodreads.