The trouble is we have complicated our lives to an unbelievable extent, and our waste in every sense, is beyond recognition. Today I was looking back at my childhood, and I estimated that the wage paid to a labourer had increased by approximately 133 times. In the 30s I could ride trams all day for sixpence. I’ve translated that and it equates to £3.33 in today’s prices. If I hadn’t a bus pass it would cost me over £1 to travel 3 miles. Someone I know well, who is not profligate, tried to sell at auction, a five years old settee, in perfect condition, they failed and it had to go to the dump. Our houses in the 30s, were furnished, even the meanest, in good quality oak or mahogany, with respected items, and all were handed down, because there was no advertising, except in newspapers, there was not this scrambling urge to keep up-to-date.. People put money on the plate on Sundays, in the cups of the injured jetsam of World War I begging on the kerb, and to the Salvation Army as they played on Sunday at the corner. We never had constant charitable demands. We didn’t carry vast insurance, we didn’t need it. We thought travelling to Devon from London, for a holiday, was an adventure, We were unsophisticated in the light of today’s gloss. Above all, we were mostly happy. If we had psychological problems we weren’t aware, because we had never heard of the word, but above all, we had the extended families. Today everything, wages, towns, houses, innovations, ideas, illnesses real or imagined, wars and egos are so big, so costly, they have taken us over. A lot of innovation is superfluous. Just lift, if you’re strong enough, an Argus catalogue. In there you will see page after page of designs of a single article, produced by different manufacturers from here and abroad. They have common functions varied on a main idea, they have different colours and shapes. Someday, go to the local supermarket, just to browse, and see how many different products fulfilling the same function there are, many of them perishable and have a very short shelf life. Guess how many are sold and how many wasted. Fashion, advertising, and pride are the cause of the duplication that is ultimately superfluous. The abandonment of the surplus, throughout the country, let alone the world, must be prodigious and represent an incredible wastage of materials perhaps in some respects, life itself. This proliferation, is engendered by people seeking to outdo one another, and make a fortune, and call it progress. I believe it is also fostered, by people treating shopping as an outing, rather than a nuisance that has to be endured. The converse to proliferation, of course, is equally repugnant, where there is no choice at all.
We have advanced so far there is no turning back, but it would be nice if different aspects of industry, inaugurated a system where there was adequate choice in design and colour, or taste, to suit most households, and held a competition every year to see if any one of the new batch of a given product, was overall better than those available, in which case, it would replace the oldest or worst design. It won’t happen, the world’s resources will go on being wasted, and it will be we who will be funding it in the cost of the products we buy, or our taxes on the disposal of our waste in packaging and old products. The generations to come will suffer as a result of some of those causes that are a knock-on affect of this level of senseless productivity It is basically crazy. We have shops filled with umpteen of the same product – take computers and their peripherals, which have a shelf life of little more than a year. This level of multiplication, surely must be unacceptable, in a world where they want us to carry out the most absurd and insignificant actions, to save the planet, all of which I personally believe is too late anyway, but I could not justify not trying, if only for the sake of our descendants.
One aspect that we must not forget and is highly relevant is that there are nations in the world who don’t have supermarkets, because they haven’t anything to put on the shelves. Whether the surplus from here goes to the tip, is given free to the very poor abroad, or is bartered, is a matter for conjecture as far as I’m concerned, as I have not the time to research it.