The human race today, even in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, is addicted to convenience. It’s this addiction that is bringing us down and, with all likelihood, be the main cause of our extinction. Due to our desire for extreme convenience, we use the resources of the world with gay abandon and create enormous amounts of pollution everywhere. In response to this, the world’s environment has been changing rapidly in recent decades, as if the world is preparing for the extinction of convenience, which includes us. Our only hope is to create an “extinction of convenience” of our own, and eliminate our insatiable desire for endless convenience.
During the current coronavirus pandemic, I see a persistent desire to get back to the ways things were even though there are plenty of fantastic examples of how things could be better. The skies are clearer because there are not many planes flying, pollution from our cities has dropped dramatically, nature in many parts of the world is springing back into action and local communities are becoming stronger all over the world, just to name a few. Do we really want to go back to the way things were? People are worried about the “economy” but we really need to build a new economy rather than simply return to the old one.
Addiction to convenience
When I talk about our addiction to convenience, what do I mean? Well, here’s the starkest definition I can provide. Life on this Earth requires a few basic things – we need to have food, we need to have air to breathe, we need sunlight, water and we need to protect ourselves from dangerous things (like deadly airborne viruses!). But when I consider our large cities in the world, I see that we are ignoring almost all these things, and we’re doing it for the sake of convenience.
In a city, there’s almost nobody involved in the growing of food. In fact, rarely is any land set aside and maintained for growing food. It’s assumed that others, outside the city, will do this and bring the food to us. It will just appear and be very convenient. No need to get our hands dirty, we’ll just have all the food we desire whenever we want it. And, we don’t care how the food is brought to us just as long as it’s cheap and convenient (while disregarding hardships the farmers endure to provide it).
In cities we all live very close to each other and many people have at least two man-made habitats to exist in: most regularly a home and an office. We’re taking up twice as much space as necessary and we don’t have any land available for growing food. It all has to be transported in to an area with a high concentration of millions of people. This inevitably creates enormous amounts of air pollution that makes the air we breathe less suitable for healthy living.
And worse, even though all the food we need has to be flown and transported in for our convenience, we prefer not to do the cooking of it either. That would be way too inconvenient. We like to have a multitude of restaurants around us so we can just go there and eat instead, or get take-aways. We just love the convenience.
In our homes, most of the food we have in the pantry is packaged in plastic and has preservatives so it keeps longer. Again this is for convenience (yet I feel for people like health workers working long shifts and arriving home exhausted). Instead of quickly preparing a snack from some fresh foods, we prefer to pop open a plastic bag and eat something made of who knows what, or toss a pre-made meal in a foil tray into the microwave for a couple of minutes. We’re not overly concerned about the nutrition that goes into our bodies (especially when getting good nutrition is inconvenient) and we don’t really mind that we’re creating a lot of rubbish that has to be collected from the city and buried somewhere else.
It really is a sad state.
On top of this, we want things that are unnecessary and we want them to be convenient.
For example, we’ve been encouraged to feel that it’s almost our birthright to have cheap international flights so we can go on holidays or visit people whenever we like. How did we ever get to the point where most pre-wedding stag-nights and hens-parties are now held in other countries? We don’t consider the burden we’re loading onto the world by having tens of thousands of planes flying all over the world every day. We don’t ever stop and say sorry to nature because we’re causing all this pollution and destruction – all because we “deserve” a cheap holiday.
If we don’t use our own energy to move ourselves from one place to another, we have to accept the fact that we’re damaging the world because of the additional convenience we’re demanding.
When we sit at home with a big-screen TV on the wall, a tablet and smartphone on the sofa next to us (I’m guilty!), and we stream a movie for our entertainment, we’re forgetting about all the minerals that had to be dug up to make all our devices and all of the computers and electricity needed to make all the data centres in the world that are needed to stream our movie. Yet, all of this is in the name of convenience.
The economy that Covid-19 is ‘damaging’ at the moment is an economy of convenience. Corporations have made huge profits supplying things that may be convenient for us, but are highly inconvenient for the rest of the Earth. We can’t go back to this after Covid-19 or we will have an extinction of convenience – the Earth will be gladly saying “goodbye” to us.
A new economy
What would a better economy look like? It’s hard to imagine, but it would have to include assigning a value to working the land and helping it to grow our food. Really, the first part of everyone’s lives should be concerned with working land and growing food. Next, local communities have to be highly valued. Almost everything needed should be provided from nearby with very little need to move goods large distances. We should use only renewable energy sources. Everything we use should be completely recycled, with no arbitrary waste (see The Story of Stuff). The internet that we have developed should be maintained and developed further, primarily for sharing information, scientific progress, learning and communicating with each other. It can play an important role in protecting ourselves from dangerous things, like deadly airborne viruses. And we must value the progress in health care and medicine that we’ve created and can develop further for our benefit.
For the most part, this is very far from the economy we had before Covid-19. That economy valued (resulted in corporate profits) things like creating products that aren’t recyclable, sending products all over the world, flying between countries for fun, professional sport (really used for advertising), burning oil and gas and creating pollution because it’s cheap, and getting people addicted to processed foods, unnecessary drugs and online activities to make more money.
If we don’t dump our old economy and start a new one, we’ll be back on the same track toward extinction. Our addiction to convenience will cause our own extinction and the Earth will be relieved in some way to see this extinction of convenience (us).