We are trying to declutter our life and everyone we talk to feels the same. Why give junk when you can give an experience.
For the same amount of time as going to the mall, we can cook up a chutney and can it for 20 people.
We've been doing this for the past 3 years and everyone seems to appreciate the various preserves and liquors we've created. It's also a lot of fun to make.
But I try to select gifts that the recipients will find useful. Even if it's still an act of consumption, it might as well be one that meets a need -- a better carving knife or a nice pen, rather than a solar-powered hand-waving queen or a novelty toy.
Or, failing that, food and drink.
Yes, it's necessary to pay attention in order to figure out what the recipient perceives a need for. But having a close enough social relationship to be able to do that is, in my view, a necessary prerequisite for gift-giving.
NB: I think the take-away from Monbiot's article, for HN readers, is this: try to make something that people need, not just something they want (for 5 minutes).
Not only is it a healthy form of nationalism that benefits your economy, but purchasing local goods that were manufactured in your home country also results in far less destruction and waste of resources.
One way to gauge the recipients' true enthusiasm would be to look at how many of them have followed your lead.
If you've been doing this for three years, how many home-made gifts did you receive in return in the second and third years? If you're counting this as the third year, how many such gifts did you receive last year?
But I don't really expect the majority to follow suit, because most the people I know simply don't know how to make things. To them canning is a black art, and a batch of toffee involves hours in front of the stove and only comes out successfully a third of the time. Ironically, many members of this cross-section of my family have actually ramped up their gifts to us in an apparent attempt to "keep up."
I'm not sure it would really be so great if all of them followed suit, anyway. The end result would just be that everyone ends up with twelve pounds of baked goods and confections to decide between eating (gluttonous) and throwing away (wasteful). We only do it because we know we can't convince everyone to cut us out of their gift-giving list entirely. Giving homemade food and baked goods is just a way to accomplish the mandatory reciprocation in a way that makes us feel a bit more comfortable with the whole affair. What I really do want is for the gift-giving tradition to go away, or at least be scaled way back. Wasteful overconsumption might involve more or less wasteful materials, but less wasteful is still a far cry from not wasteful.
Children have wishlists (adults too nowadays -- e.g. Amazon), people 'register' for weddings, etc.
Material goods are a poor proxy for that in my case, because they have the effect of actually reducing my quality of life. I've already got a cluttered house and more possessions than I know what to do with. It's actually pretty hard for me to think of objects that I genuinely want - so hard that when people give me gift cards, they generally go unused. I've got more than enough stuff, I'm actively working on having less stuff, and so I'd rather let it go to waste than acquire an object I don't want and will just go unused until I eventually discard it during the next round of decluttering.
So in any case I feel bad - either because of guilt over not appreciating an object that I simply can't because it brings me negative utility, or guilt over the money or effort people put into trying to give me an object that brings me negative utility, or for actively involving myself in the acquisition of an object that brings me negative utility, or for the sense of being wasteful that comes with the inevitable disposal of an object that brings me negative utility. And I would greatly prefer for people to show they care in a way that doesn't make me feel bad. I just wish I could understand why in this one situation I'm generally considered to be a bad person for wanting my loved ones to not make me feel bad. Isn't it supposed to be a time of year when we're supposed to gather together and try to make each other feel good?
Sadly the ritual just isn't really structured in a way that makes it workable for folks like us. The material gifts are inextricably placed at the core of the social construct, to the extent that there's really no way to extract them for the sake of respecting the feelings someone who doesn't desire a material gift. So inextricably that we can't just not give an object to someone who would rather not take part in the exchange of objects because we care about them and understand that would make them happier. Instead we have to make them out to be some sort of Scrooge.
Also, while people might just be being polite, that possibly doesn't go away with a purchased gift.
Your reply suggests that you may be giving homemade gifts and getting retail-purchased gifts in return.
I actually agree with what you're doing but doubt that many recipients truly appreciate your gifts, which are likely pretty neat.
This article, and the title especially, repulses me a quite a lot.
The article compares the environmental impact of what Anglo-European societies generally consider socially acceptable consumer consumption - frivolous holiday gifts - to what those same societies consider socially unacceptable consumption, powdered rhino horn.
The author is pointing out that there is a double standard which is convenient for us, and not for the other.
Being repulsed is not a reasoned argument.
Do you not have a cell phone because they are evil? I just upgraded to a nice new iPhone 5. I won't be disposing of it for many years. I wasn't aware that people tended to.
This shouldn't really be a HN story, as it is fundamentally political.
I am sure HNers have no problem discussing politics where it directly effected them - that's news. But where it effects others 'that's just politics'.
This is relevant because it is related to your / our actions. It is relevant because these 'bad' things are actually related. There was a time when we in the western world could claim ignorance.
And the reason he gets under your nose is he is a self described polemicist.
Yes, he's a political polemicist, hence shouldn't be on HN. I wouldn't want to see a Fox News columnist on here either. (I don't like extreme politics of any shade. Yes, he is extreme, even if you agree with him.)
A serious discussion of how tantalum's use in electronics is damaging to the people of Congo would be appropriate, this is not.
That is one thing I like about monbiot, he references his work. I check his facts. Not all polemicists are the same. I have never seen a fox 'journalist' reference facts.
While the words of my point may be true, the overall meaning is bullshit because the deforestation stopped because there were no more trees left.
Also, I read his article on smartphone, if there were no content on the internet I would have no need for a smartphone, therefore reading mr. Monbiot's articles contribute to the massacre of the congo. He should probably stop writing lest he kill even more people.
He should probably also start talking about the wonders of North Korea where the people are so caring about the earth that they would rather starve than consume.
Like most, this article deals with the most proximal causes, but neglects to examine the way that the production of even unrelated goods can be related economically. Toning down the consumption of consumer electronics in the first world will likely do little to solve the situation. Just draft up the S+D curves and you can see why.
I'm not a big fan of buying lots of rubbish for Christmas, but it's purely because I don't really see the point and could do with saving the time and effort.
Like we could recycle everything. Or like energy was currently free and non-polluting. Whoever the guy is, he actually gave good arguments in this article.
You're completely ignoring time here. We may never get to recycle the landfill because the pollution will kill us before. Yes, the Earth will clean itself up in a thousand years, the plastics will decompose, and the Sun will refuel the Earth, but those things are irrelevant if humanity is dead by that time. If we want to keep rising the standard of living on the entire planet, we need to stop poisoning ourselves and trashing everything around us in such a stupid way.
Not many have, unsurprisingly..
Well, at humanity timescale a lot of thing can deplete without shooting them outside the solar system. Environment for one.
"Depleted" doesn't mean the resources are no longer present. It means they are no longer available efficiently. 1kg of Gold is more valuable in a big pure lump than when it's spread over millions of smashed-up connectors in the world's landfills. Same number of atoms, just more accessible.
The helium in a party balloon really does escape into space, sadly. Big time depleted.
I predict this will be the real killer app of self-assembling and -maintaining nanomachines: processing landfills into ingots of useful material. That's a pretty long range prediction however.
Gold-harvesting nano robots would be awesome. Just don't let those suckers loose downtown...
WRT letting nanomachines loose outside the landfill, I'm not actually as concerned about the "gray goo" scenario as some are. It has seldom been a problem in other engineering endeavors that mechanisms have required too little maintenance, and so in a sense all of our machines face an uphill battle. One could probably make a thermodynamic argument that a given volume of soil contains only so much potential energy, and then calculate how much gold can be moved with that. Then "if the gold concentration is below this value, do nothing" could be a good safety rule to design in.
The problem of where the energy comes from for micro- and nanomachines is very tough. But if you can make the landfill harvesting work, no doubt they'd harvest the hell out of the electronics in an office tower.
Robot foraging and energetics is my area of expertise. Pleasantly surprised to see a cogent comment come up on HN, thanks and nice to meet you!
It's not just smart phones; it's anything that uses tantalum capacitors. If, as an engineer, you can avoid using tantalum capacitors in your designs, please do.
I'm not sure that Dicken's or pop culture calculated that our laughter and good humor might cause the disease and sorrow. Current Christmas culture just accentuates the problem that the average consumer is born into a world where it is often unclear how daily decisions affect the rest of the world.
Besides, like RAM and unlike e.g. plastic, unused bandwidth is wasted bandwidth.
Even then, I really must point out that this problem is as old as humanity itself. There has never been a single generation of humans that has not attempted to flaunt their wealth in grotesquely pointless ways. The rise of the upper middle class simply creates more people rich enough to do so.
In the US in 2010 a remarkable 93% of the growth in incomes accrued to the top
1% of the population(7). The old excuse, that we must trash the planet to help
the poor, simply does not wash.
- no more than 1 gift
- the gift must not cost overt 20 EUR, and the less expansive the better
- if a list of suggestion is made, better pick up from the list.
Simple, effective and it does not prevent gifts or consumption.
I usually say that to everyone around me to avoid getting stuff I don't know what to do with and will hate myself if I throw it away (it's a gift you know!)
An example : last year xmas present I got from my mom : red ties. Still using them BTW.
If you receive something unexpected, accept it after taking time to inform the offerer of your policy, so that next year you won't be uncomfortable. A single awkward moment, then it will be fine for the next years.
BTW I'm trying to have people stop sending me cards, but I haven't succeeded yet, even after multiple requests- even when I stopped sending them.
The best agreement so far with my family : I explained some people love to receive cards, but I don't, and in fact it makes me very sad - as much as if they don't receive one. So I send them a card IFF they don't send me one - that's a compromise acceptable by both parties.
And everyone is happy. No need for a bleeding hart moralizing article during a guilt trip.
Perhaps instead Mr. Monbiot should give himself the gift of a reasonable and nuanced position that doesn't make outlandish claims.
I do try to buy people useful stuff though. Things that they may want to use for a while, and no gag gifts.
People spend so much time working hard instead of doing what they really want to, because it is expected of them. By consuming they feel their work was worth it and it is the only way they can avoid the dread that they have wasted their lives not following their dreams?