The Naked Truth/Jamala Rogers
We're taking up too much space
Last year as part of its social cinema series, the Havens Center for Social Justice screened ‘The True Cost.” It had quite an impact on me and my visual senses were
heightened as to how Americans hyper-accumulate everything from clothes to money.
Yes, I know this is a capitalist system where accumulation is the basis of that system, but we seem to be oblivious to the impact on our planet. Most of us are not part
of the ruling financial elite, but working people are leaving an indelible footprint that needs to be reversed. We must stop participating in the manufacturing plunder of
“The True Cost” is a documentary about the clothing industry. The film looks at how the insatiable appetite of low cost goods fuels production. The effects of that
production are devastating on the environment, linked to river and soil pollution. Disease and death follow pesticide contamination for the workers and communities
caught in the super-exploitation of mass production.
Part of the so-called Wal-Mart Effect is the accessibility of all things cheap 24/7 for poor and working people. The marketing strategy of Wal-Mart plays on the psyche
and pocketbook of poor folks and has them accepting cheap goods of a lesser quality despite its ugly labor practices at home and abroad. The booming success of
the 4,000 stores in the U.S. attests to this where Wal-Mart is the only game in town. It often squeezes out the life of small family businesses who once provided
groceries, prescriptions and hardware to small towns.
Cheap prices allure consumers into buying and buying and buying. We all know someone who has bought stuff while viewing the QVC shopping channel including
stuff they didn’t need and would never use. I know folks who never opened the stuff they bought. They put it in the closet or basement along with the other stuff. Last
year, QVC made almost $9 billion off our addiction for stuff. eBay’s profits last year weren’t far behind QVC’s so if we’re doing the math, we can say with certainty that
this is a multi-billion-dollar industry where we are only factored into the profits for the big corporations.
And where do we put our stuff when we run out of room in our homes for all the stuff? Our accumulation has spawned a whole new industry that’s taking up space —
lots of it.
I’ve been fascinated by the proliferation of self-storage units over the years. You’ve seen them pop up all over the place. The new, fancy ones tout climate-controlled
units and 24-hr security. You have choices for your five fur coats or for grandma’s china you took after her death knowing you have no use for it. We got so much stuff
we forget we got stuff and its gets auctioned off on shows like Storage Wars and Storage Hunters.
Estimates put the number of self-storage facilities in this country at about 50,000 which take up nearly two billion square feet. A recent survey reported that one out of
11 households pay monthly storage fees somewhere. The industry is not a job-creator either; these units need minimal staffing.
As a country, we are taking up so much space and using up too many resources. The U.S. is only five percent of the world’s population, but we are consuming about
25 percent of the world’s energy. We have addictive needs that markets are feeding incessantly from drugs to consumer goods. This is as much a psychological
struggle as it is an economic one.
What version of Swedish death cleaning can we apply in our own spaces where we live and work. It’s time to acknowledge our part in the capitalist equation. It’s time
to take responsibility for our personal share of the space we take up with stuff and our abuse of natural resources. If our vision of the world is each according to their
needs, we have a lot of down-sizing to do personally while still holding the capitalist class accountable for its global oppression and exploitation.