Saturday, January 18, 2014

Free Shipping! Free Shipping! Free Shipping!

If you are one of the many humans who don't believe in evolution, or more specifically believe that the planet is just 6,000 years old, or believe that a God or gods have a plan for us, I wouldn't bother reading any more of this post.

OK, then. So if you are still reading this, I will assume that you have a healthy respect for the scientific method (including, at its core, a constant challenging of its own "theories" - current models for explaining how the world works) and a growing horror at what we humans are doing to our world  and, just as importantly, doing to the millions of other species of living creatures on this incredible planet.

But we shouldn't give up, right? We should do whatever we can, whenever we can, to heal the world from the worst of human ravages, cut back on our consumption, educate our fellow humans about the importance of changing our ways.

Absolutely. But first allow to express a bit of concern about the chance that anything we do will have much impact.

1. "Free Shipping" 

Among the many incredible accomplishments of e-selling juggernaut Amazon is that "visionary" Jeff Bezos has managed to zero out the entire cost of the infrastructure of transportation of products in the minds of consumers. We have become addicted to "free shipping" (hey, and if you pay just $79 for Amazon Prime, free second day shipping) and fully expect that we should not have to pay anything to:

a. Move the product from the factory in China to a truck.
b. Drive the truck to the train.
c. The train chugs its way to a port.
d. A truck takes the product from the train to a container.
e. Container is loaded onto massive cargo ship (holding thousands of said containers).
f. Cargo ship crosses big sea, consuming enormous amounts of fuel.
g. Ship arrives in San Francisco and lets all its ballast water out into the Bay, releasing billions of creatures who do not belong, some of whom will invade and wipe out native creatures.
h. Move container off ship to truck.
i. Truck to train.
j. Train to truck.
k. Friendly Fed-Ex or UPS fellow leaving a box at our door.

All of that, and not only for free, but cheaper than we can get it ANYWHERE ELSE including the store down the street.

Causing this shift in our perspective is no small accomplishment - and has, I fear, nothing but bad consequences.

Seems to me that 2014 is the wrong year (as if 2013, 2012, 2011 or 2010 were any better) for humans to no longer have to pay any attention - or money - for the vast and vastly destructure globalized movement of products.

Not promising at all!

2. "All the News That's Fit to Banner"

It's not hard to find an article or blog post or (even better) a tweet about how our attention spans are decreasing, how young people don't read lengthy books or articles anymore. They are easily distracted and tuned to receiving short bursts of highly packaged data. Yeah, OK, we've heard all that.

And I believe it.

So I found it really striking and downright depressing that none of our major newspapers even include the Environment, Planet, Ecology, Climate Change, etc. as a top-level entry on the banners of their websites. Take a look:

If these hold-outs of reason and deep(er) thinking can't seem to manage to accept the world-killing efforts of humans (also a major killer of humans) as a significant category of news in 2014, then I truly do not find it easy to be optimistic about the chances that we will change our consuming ways.

3. Dolphin and Killer Whale Shows

Well, I am not going to repeat what I already said here, except to say:

The next time anyone sounds off about the superiority of human beings over other creatures, ask them what they think about us enslaving other sentient beings.


iudith said...

The deeper and more sad reality behind the "Free Shipping" is the fact there there are far much more producers than potentially paying consumers for every product,
and every producer wants to sell :)

Unfortunately, our world is only able to produce, and to produce and to produce ...

Once for simply making a living it was enough to produce a minimum amount of basic goods ...
today you should also SELL !

No one will be able to stop this pace and let humans enjoy again this planet, as an EQUAL part of Creation (not necessarily by a God ...) together with all the other beings, and without destroying
themselves and everything else around them ...

And why ?

Because there exist powerful enough forces that hugely benefit from the current situation ...

Unknown said...

The cost of "free" shipping is usually built into the price, or subsidized by fee shipping.
You've all seen the S&H charges that for some companies are just another profit center.

Steven Feuerstein said...

Unknown, your comment sort of misses the point. Amazon's approach is not some sort of "hidden" charge like the old TV "Shipping and handling charges extra" (or now hidden). We pay less and less for the products and still pay nothing to transport them. Obviously, Amazon is still able to make a bunch of money (though famously Amazon de-prioritizes profit as it seeks to grow, grow, grow). The point, however, is what is going on in our minds, and how we see things.

Scott Wesley said...

I've heard a convincing arguments regarding the globalisation issue - something along the lines that it's more economical and environmentally friendly to grow some fruits in certain world regions and ship them onwards - rather than grow local.

I heard this on the SGU podcast - something I reckon you'd enjoy.