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Student Gazette

Society’s wastefulness is a sign of our selfishness
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Christine Choi is a junior at Shaker High School

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Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Christine Choi
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Although it’s a recurring theme, humans are wasteful. And not only are they wasteful, humans are selfish.

Waste can be classified into two different categories. The first, “conspicuous waste,” is using money on superfluous purchases, consuming large amounts of resources and personally driving everywhere.

The second, “inconspicuous waste,” is actually a subcategory of conspicuous waste, but distinguishes actions that aren’t even considered to be wasteful. For example, in many houses multimedia players and speakers are left turned on while computers are simply put to “sleep.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) the average household annually consumes around 115 million British thermal units (Btus) in a year and, according to Coolerplanet.com, has an electricity bill of $2,400. If approximately one quarter of the energy consumed is for electronics unnecessarily turned on, one would be wasting approximately 30 million Btus and $600 per year.

Inconspicuous waste doesn’t end with electronics. Americans eat more than they really should. An American’s “couple” of snacks a day is the injurious equivalent of four fatty, high in sodium and — plainly said — unhealthy meals. This drains individuals of money and the world of natural resources. Gluttony can be deadly, it’s true.

The harsh reality is that while America fattens and lives in extravagance, almost 50 percent of the world starves and lives on less than $2.50 a day, according Globalissues.org. What can an American buy with $2.50? A pair of socks. Pencils. Whatever they are, the items would be rather insignificant to survival, much less health. Consequently, many people in third world countries die from poor health, particularly from lack of nutrients like America’s favorite two, sodium and fat.

Above all, the worst part is that the awareness of global poverty is high, but sympathies are so minute and fleeting that wasteful lifestyles are continued. Thus, fundamentally, wasteful lifestyles are offspring of human selfishness. I do not mean that humans are evil, self-centered beings, because sympathy comes from an innate goodness. However, there is an unmistakable, although elusive, selfish quality in our lifestyles, as they are predominantly driven by our desires to maintain statuses of luxury.

I believe that the simplification of life is the key to reducing the output of waste. Lower thermostats in general and before going to sleep; turn them off when leaving the house. Save leftovers. Keep recycling bins. Don’t throw away plastic utensils, juice containers or baggies — clean them for later use. Use flawed printouts as scrap paper. Give away old clothes. Use coupons. And most importantly, I stress continuation, continuation, and continuation. Eventually, all these actions morph into a habit.

And so, for the purpose of limited waste and ameliorating the future, sympathy, resourcefulness, and sustainability of spirit are absolutely necessary. The earth does not expand with the universe. As a nation of republicanism and democracy, we should know that only the suppression of self-interest for the welfare of the whole community brings stability to the private home and to public society.



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