Thursday, April 3, 2008

What I would be watching if I had cable

This National Geographic series is about the Human Footprint, the sum of all consumption an average person has in their lifetime. The average American will consume: 87,520 slices of bread, 26,112 cups of milk, 19,826 eggs, 12,888 oranges, 12,129 hamburger buns, 3,796 diapers, 31,350 gallons of gas.

Each one of these items - oranges, milk, diapers - took raw materials to make such as water, oil, labor etc. The purpose of the series is to not only document how many hamburgers a person consumes, but where the cattle was raised and what steps and people are involved in bringing the meat to market.

A la the I Pencil piece I talked about earlier, there is an army of people producing goods and services who live behind the scenes. In different countries, speaking different languages, people who might even hate each other but who, unknowingly, contribute to our well being.

This is not the jist of the show. The shows purpose is to show how wasteful we are. Wasteful on a scale unimaginable by our ancestors and above any rational sense of proportion. I cannot deny this, but this waste isn't entirely bad and has enabled us to live better, consuming more goods from more remote parts of the world than our parents or grand-parents ever could. My interest is in the supply chain that brought these goods to market and enabled this incredible "waste" in the first place.

There is a very good chance than many of these oranges, milk, diapers, tires, hamburger buns and gasoline was stored in Inland Empire warehouses, transported along Southern California highways and rail systems to the rest of the country.

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