The Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not waste”

I was wondering if  the eleventh Commandment would “Thou shalt not waste”. I don’t like to talk about religion but at least part of the global population would try to follow that. We developed a waste culture which is really hard to change. It is bigger than environmental conscience or doing the right or wrong thing. It is our culture. To have an idea how hard the change is, one can use as example three different cultures. In Japan is normal to kill dolphins, in Uruguay and Argentina is normal to kill cows and have a big barbecue and in India the same cows are sacred. Which one is right? Or wrong? Each of these cultures think they are right and the others cultures are maybe not doing the right thing. But what do they have in common? All cultures are going toward the western approach:

It is cheaper to buy a new version of even the most expensive appliance than to track down someone to repair the original item.

Yes, I am part of this culture, but honestly I am trying to change. I was watching the movie Planes (I love documentaries and cartoons) and one scene caught my attention. Around 52 min and 10 sec Zed (a plane) uses his skyPad (an obvious parody of the Apple iPad) to show a video to Ripslinger (bad plane) about Dusty (hero plane) winning the race, only to have it crushed. Zed is upset, but Ripslinger tells him that a new one is coming out in two weeks.

Wow, I think the intention was obvious to make fun of the fact that when a new version of  the ipad is released the old version becomes almost instantly out of date (which means for some people useless). Unfortunately, it happens with lots of different electronic devices and again it is part of our culture. Would you like an example? Ask yourself how many cellphones have you used? What did you do with them?

I found an interesting video of the artist Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky makes large-scale photographs of “manufactured landscapes’ – quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He gave a TED talk a couple of years ago and from his talk is easy to see where we are going with our culture of waste.

What does it mean?? Lets think a little bit about the industrial revolution (around 1912) and the processes used at that time (as pointed by the authors of the book Cradle to Cradle):

  • puts billions of pounds of toxic material into the air, water, and soil every year
  • produces some materials so dangerous they will require constant vigilance by future generations
  • results in gigantic amount of waste
  • creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying or burning them
  • require thousands of complex regulations – not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned too quickly

Does it sound outdated for you? The air of London in the 19th century was so polluted from burning coal that people would change their cuffs and collars at the end of the day.  Does it sound familiar? It is really hard to believe but more than 100 years after and Beijing is following similar path.  Again it is part of our consume and waste culture. This 20-minute movie shows basically how our culture works. The linear approach of consumption and waste. I don’t agree when she talks about computers because when the processors are changed not necessarily the old motherboards, memory slots, and video cards are compatible with the new circuits of the processor.

Sometimes I appreciate radical ideas as of the architect Michael Reynolds. Michael introduced radically sustainable housing 30 years ago. The home heats itself, provides its own water, hat grows its own food. It needs no expensive technology, it recycles its own waste, it has its own power source. The house uses beer cans, car tires and water bottles to produce thermal mass. This documentary shows these experimental structures that defy state standards and creates conflict between Reynolds and the authorities.


Ok I agree the houses are not the prettiest nor can solve the problem of the big cities, but it is a good start. It is not the house itself but the way that he thinks and I am not talking about to be a semi-hippie. I am talking about: “Thou shalt not waste”.

Any ideas, opinions, help, criticism, suggestion? Please let me know. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.


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