Rethinking Waste Management

Growing up, I had to clean my plate. My mother would tell me not to waste food. I even remember reading a story about a grown woman who was angry for being told the same thing and that there were starving children on the other side of the world. Why was all of this guilt fed with every spoonful? Were we being taught responsibility? Or, was there something deeper at issue?

Does our attitude about waste have any bearing on our attitudes about economy? I think it does. My parents were always concerned about the cost of replacing what was wasted. From them, I learned how to ask whether or not we could afford to pay for what I wanted. For me, it was orange juice. I always wanted to have a large glass of orange juice with my breakfast, but in a family with five children, I was lucky to get a small restaurant size.

In looking forward to this big treat of a small glass of orange juice, I learned to be a good steward of what I had, but more notably, I learned to expect little things and to be jealous of those who had more than I had. I learned envy and I whopping big lesson in judging others for having too much or for not working hard enough to get more. Worse, I learned to judge myself harshly for not effectively participating in this economy.

In economics class, I was taught that economics was the management and distribution of scarce resources. We were taught to focus on management and distribution, not the fact that scarcity was a presupposition? It was generally assumed that since there would not be any more land created, owning land was crucial to managing and distributing scarce resources.

If, however, economics were based upon abundance instead of scarcity, could, then, waste become a tolerable thing? Would it be okay to leave food on my plate if management or say "mismanagement" of resources did not spark a quest to conquer peoples for land, thus thrusting them into poverty and starvation?

Let us dismiss this notion that Mother Earth will not have any more land. Volcanoes make new land all of the time by spewing out lava. So land cannot be the issue. What is at issue is that everything that we use is provided for by the earth. Does the earth function based upon scarcity? Not usually. Usually there is an overabundance.

There is an ancient African proverb, "from one seed comes many." Take a seed from a persimmon tree -- a good example because there happens to be one across the street from my house. One seed produces one tree which produces more fruit than any fool would care to count. From those seeds there is the potential for orchards and orchards. With this understanding, it is easy to see that scarcity may be one hugely false premise?

Let us now say that economics is the management and distribution of abundant resources. When I go into the produce department of a grocery store, I now see abundance? I have taken off the blinders of whether or not I can pay for what is there. Fruit and vegetables are abundant in supermarkets so this notion of scarcity is really all about the ability to pay the owners of the abundance, produced by Mother Earth -- owners who limit supply by manipulating prices. We work, earn money to feed a notion of ownership that is based upon a false premise of scarcity, devaluing the quality of our lives with envy, greed, jealousy, judgment, self-recriminations and much more.

Additionally, I want to revisit the persimmon tree. I observed the tree from its production of summer fruit to its fall balding. Most noticeably was the vast amount of decaying fruit spread around on the ground. If I had left that much food behind, my mother would have scolded me, but Mother Earth teaches a different lesson. She very efficiently uses the fruit, seeds and leaves as fertilizer for the tree, ensuring that there will be fruit for the next growing season. What affect on our perception of economy would take place if we used such effective waste management? How would it affect greed, envy, jealousy, judgment and all of those other negative emotions and actions?

The guilt taught to us when seeing leftover food piled high on our plates is easily transferred to land fields and city dumps, but both ancient and modern technologies can be used to eliminate much of this waste and guilt. What is so wonderful about it is that the techniques yield byproducts of reusable energy, namely methane gas which can be used to run diesel engines, oil, hot water and fertilizer so rich that food can be grown from it in abundant proportions on arid land. When you do not have to worry about waste, what doors open to you?

Would children be forced to develop guilt complexes that could spill over into other areas of their lives? What if they knew they could not only grow more food than they could eat, but that the leftover food could be transformed into fuel for a car or generator that could run the electrical systems of the house? What if there were even more efficient systems that yielded even more efficient reusable energy? Say zero point energy (another story)?

Perhaps all economic problems will not be solved by more efficient waste management, but even if the only lesson is just to show that economics is not about scarcity, but about who gets to control abundant resources, think of the industries that would be affected: utilities, fuel, food markets. These are the basic necessities of life that others control for us. What if we could control these resources for ourselves with miniaturized versions of these energy transformation systems?

Would we redefine wealth and prosperity? Would we be steps closer to eliminating poverty and crime? Now, that really is food for thought.

Thank you for reading my article. Now, please watch my YouTube video The Happiness Tree in which I read the folktale I wrote based upon the ancient African proverb, "from one seed comes many." Also, see videos on more efficient waste management and more efficient food production.

(c) Copyright - Pamela Hamilton. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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