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Affluenza, downcycling and from cradle to cradle

Published 30th August 2010 - 1 comments - 3245 views -

Travelling by train from a capital to the south of Poland, I had an occasion to listen to discussion among travel companions on the endless story of Polish railways: how unreliable they are, how ugly and how slow. In fact, many of them are nowadays slower than 10 years ago! This trend really surprises in the world where everything moves faster, grows bigger and goes further than our ancestors would ever imagine.

To this thought well corresponded a chapter of Thomas Friedman’s book ‘Hot, flat and crowded’ . When other passengers were discussing bad condition of our train, I was reading about affluenza and how we, modern societies from developed countries, do suffer from it.  Basically, affluenza comes from two words: affluence and influenza, and refers to a state where we consume more, waste more and are never satisfied with we’ve got. Instead, we are constantly chasing our ‘American’ dream with its new models of mobiles, cars and other goods.

If affluenza was not bad enough on its own, at the same time we can observe the process called by William McDonough and Michael Braungart ‘downcycling’. They notice that even though our technologies are more and more advanced, we use them to produce goods and products of worse and worse quality, with a much shorter expiry date. Instead of recycling we rather put ourselves in a vicious circle of wastage and lead to exploitation of resources on a global scale.

According to authors, the only positive response that could save us is what they call a “cradle to cradle” attitude: holistic approach to a product life cycle which does end up with a “product grave”. Instead goods have to be turnable into fully functional new products or have to be biodegradable to use them as soil fertilizers. And even though it may sound a bit futuristic, it is so hard not to agree that we desperately need to apply this in practice. Otherwise, we’ll just turn our environment into dumping ground..

Coming back to surrounding reality, train was still going, passengers were either reading or sleeping and me, I was no longer so sure if this old, but still good train is the worst thing we could complain about….

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  • Hussam Hussein on 30th August 2010:

    Thanks Gosia.. smile interesting article about consumism, American dream, and satisfaction. From my Polish experience, the trains were on time and good smile I also remember that they gave us a free bottle of water or a soft drin plus some biscuits.. it was so sweet smile

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