Last weekend, while in Mexico for my summer “break”, I visited my best friend who got married a couple of months ago and lives in San Antonio, Tx. What was really curious was that I felt like an alien in a context that was a normal and ordinary thing since for many years I went there for anything such as touring, concerts, shopping, etc.
These are some of the ideas that crossed my mind during the weekend, in no specific order of importance/relevance:
Fried Chicken: We are facing a food crisis for the simple reason that Asians, such as Chinese and Indians, are raising their income, and therefore they afford more food. Can you imagine 1.3 billion Chinese affording to eat an extra piece of chicken in their daily diets?
The point goes a little beyond that, and it has to do with the fact that food is being genetically modified (grains, animals, plants, etc.) to produce more than what nature can, since we are consuming at a faster pace than what resource are renewing. How much of what we eat is really healthy at all, how much of what we eat is crap?
I normally say this as a joke, but what if the Hindu/vegetarian Indians decided to start eating beef?… they will end up getting it all and the one ending up eating a plate of rice would be me. The point is that current levels of food production are skewed because they are planned and based on current world ratios, but evidently, the moment people scale up their consumption (it’s happening already, from vegetables, grains into fish, meat, etc.), we will be in deep trouble.
Luxury food: this is related to the previous point. Basically today you can chose between a fruit that grew out of fertilizers (and God knows what other chemicals) vs. a fruit that is “organic”. Of course, you have to pay premium for these types of products. So then again, when did eating healthy, natural and organic food became a luxury? And what kind of food have we been eating, and people will continue to do so, with counter effects in health that we don’t know today because all those transgenic stuff is being tested on us like lab rats?
Unsustainable consumption: buy, buy, buy, the more you buy, the more you save… One of the things I like about India is that it makes you forget a bit that you have to keep on buying stuff to be “cool” and “fit in” with the context. It is though quite obvious that in such country there is basically no “need” to show off or anything. Sometimes I even chose not to buy those new shoes because they would easily get ruined the minute I put a foot on the street.
But this perspective helped me also develop the habit of getting rid and donating stuff to people who could need it and being more responsible with what I buy. So if I would buy a shirt, I would go to find an old one I didn’t used much and give it away. I am sure that regardless of where you live there would be people that could appreciate such gestures.
Upselling: You can buy some item and pay just half the price of the 2nd one… you want a regular soda, but you can make it X-Large for just a few cents more… what about upgrading your fries from french to curly ones?… extra cheese?… why wouldn’t you?… so you end up either paying more or just spending more money for stuff and would up ending not drinking/eating/consuming, therefore… wasting.
The concepts of scarce resources, buying only what you need and not what you want are not present in a society that is used to have everything and more, at any time, with no constraints.
Public transportation: I was just wondering how someone can chose not to drive a car in San Antonio, it’s impossible, because there is no public transportation to move you miles from one mall, or supermarket to the next one and back home. The U.S. has indeed the largest cars per capita ratio in the world with 812 cars per 1,000 people. Italy has 690, Mexico 276 and India 18. I am no scientist, so I’ll just leave open the ecologic implications of vehicles in the environment.
Going to the U.S. is the most normal thing in the world for an average Mexican mid-class person living close to the border. But it was really interesting to see things from a different perspective. I am just sorry I had to around the world to now come and notice them, but I am sure that by deciding to do small changes in our habits can make a contribution to help manage our resources.
But anyway, coming back to my starting point, my best friend is doing great and happily married with his lovely wife. Me as usual, I’m just happy I have another place to crash in this planet!
Addendum March 13th, 2014
Just came across this video of George Carlin