Comes Out Of The Closet
By Mickey Z.
28 November, 2006
My wife and I moved into a new
apartment earlier this year. Just a few blocks from our old place, it's
been a major quality of life improvement in almost every possible way.
One unexpected adjustment, however, was closet space. This moderately
sized one-bedroom apartment has only two narrow closets. (You couldn't
fit a scandalous skeleton in them if you tried.) Keeping in mind that
the building is more than 78 years old, how might we explain this egregious
a) The architects were idiots
b) The architects callously
c) Americans had far less
"stuff" in 1928
d) All of the above
Accepting as a given that all humans are idiots that callously cut corners,
the can't-miss answer is, of course, D. However, in this particular
case, I believe C is far more accurate. In fact, I'll bet the original
tenants here considered themselves mighty lucky to even have two closets.
They may have believed that whatever didn't fit inside was superfluous.
Imagine that: A two-closet existence.
Long before shopping became hardwired into human biology, Voltaire said,
"When it's a question of money, everybody is of the same religion."
That said, it might appear sacrilegious to suggest the two-closet lifestyle
during Christmas shopping season. However, we all share the blame for
the global costs of our commodity culture. Multi-national corporations
may be most obvious villains but shopping malls only survive if they
can attract customers.
And attract, they do. According to something called "ShopperTrak
RCT," sales at 45,000 mall-based stores for the day after Thanksgiving
Friday" nine billion dollars worth of video games, jeans, cell
phones, flat screen TVs, sneakers, and other "stuff" that
would definitely not fit into two
The richest one-fifth of the world's humans consume 58% of total energy,
use 74% of all telephone lines, consume 84% of all paper, and own 87%
of all vehicles. The poorest one-fifth of the world's humans consume
less than 4% of total energy, use 1.1% of all telephone lines, consume
less than 1% of all paper, and own less than 1% of all vehicles.
These stats may imply innocence for four-fifths of us but if you live
in America, you are almost definitely a member of the "richest
one-fifth" and thus require more than two closets. You are also
part of the 1.7 billion people Worldwatch Institute calls the ³global
consumer class² "users of televisions, telephones, and the
Internet, along with the culture and ideals these products transmit."
In 2004, for example, this group spent $14 billion on ocean cruises
and $37 billion on makeup and perfumes. During that same year, $5 billion
was spent on universal literacy and $10 billion on efforts to provide
clean drinking water for all. The impact of conspicuous consumption
on the environment is equally calamitous.
"Today's consumption is undermining the environmental resource
base. It is exacerbating inequalities," United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) declared in 1998. "If the trends continue without
change ... today's problems of consumption and human development will
worsen." The UNDP concludes: "Runaway growth in consumption
in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before
So...what's in your closet?
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://ww.mickeyz.net.
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