Fitting end: My Global Warming Mug Melted

A big thank you to my sister for giving me this disaster themed consumer product. And a thank you to the manufacturers for designing it to melt in the dishwasher. Eloquent on so many levels.

chat Posted Sep 27, 2015 by Rezwan | Category : Stuff
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Mugged by Global Warming Consumer Products

For the record, I confess I was not as enthused as one should be when getting a gift. What a lovely, supportive gesture. I should be bursting with gratitude. Instead, I grumble. It’s more stuff!  What would Annie Leonard of the Story of Stuff say?  What would Marie Kondo say?

Marie would ask, “Does it give you joy?” 

And the answer is, “Um…well…it gives me joy that someone thought of me, but….um…the mug itself…”

Alas, no. The mug depresses me. Watching sea levels rise each time I have a warm beverage? Not fun. Is this supposed to be motivation?

Ah. Motivation. Also meditation. No mere lesson in sea level rise, the mug is also the embodiment of consumption guilt. It’s a gift. Gifts must be liked. They must also be answered with other gifts in return. The cycle of stuff and clutter goes on.

More guilt inducing: there are workers and companies out there whose livelihoods depend on the sale of such things. Folks that stand to make some money from selling this mug.

They may be cynical, trying to cash in on disaster. They may be earnest, hoping to educate and inspire action. Either way, they have mouths to feed.

This mug is just doing its job of supporting families and companies. Brave little mug.

About those mouths to feed. Am I the only one who suffers objects because of this type of consumer guilt? The obligation to buy stuff to prop up the economy and help keep people employed? Our world is socially and economically organized so that one of the few ways to get the right to feed your family is by producing an excess of cheesy consumer products.  (What’s the alternative? Unbundle our economy from stuff. For a look at how that might work, check out Jaron Lanier’s “Who Owns the Future”.)

To unbundle is not to eliminate. The existence of each humble product is quite miraculous.

There is an optimal number of global warming themed mugs that could be manufactured. This optimal set of mugs would travel in the world, providing joy and motivation to the people who are moved by such things.

How would we figure out the optimal number of mugs? We could try a universal basic income. It would reduce the pressure on folks to take whatever job they could and produce and sell any object just to survive. It would clear up the clutter. You wouldn’t need to bother producing such things, or consuming them because you feel bad about not supporting the person making and selling the stuff. Once that pressure is off, you’re left with people driven by a genuine desire to create the thing, and people who really want the thing. (As opposed to desperate need for survival, and awkward feeling of guilt).

Now, where was I? Oh yes, contemplating the demise of humanity while drinking a hot beverage from my Global Warming Mug. And then came the tipping point.

Deus ex dishwasher machina

I washed the mug.  In the dishwasher.  One wash and there went Tierra del Fuego.

There was the UK, buried in plastic.

Behold India and Russia, cleaved asunder.

Heeding the warnings too late

I see now that that bit of paper that came with the mug says: “DO NOT Machine Wash.”

Who reads the instructions? And who designs mugs that can’t be machine washed? How impractical.

But wait! That’s another bit of added meditation value. Clever. The product makes you think about your dishwasher use and how that contributes to climate change.

Action Note: if your home is powered by fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal fired power plants - you’re contributing to global warming.  If your home is powered by solar, wind, hydro or nuclear, you rock. Wash away! 

The question is, how do you get your home to run on the latter?

Fun fact: I’m not sure about the dishwasher, but check out how the energy used by an “energy saving” single-family fridge compares with the power consumption of an average citizen in six African countries (infographic via Todd Moss):

The mug meltdown experience would also makes the consumer think about how maybe if they had paid attention to the warnings early on, they could have prevented this fiasco. The warnings were written in bold. How did you miss that?

Such metaphor. Much eloquent.

Now what should I do? Peel off the plastic and have a simple blue mug?

Will it foretell the blue of a submerged world, asleep in the deep? Or the blue of clean, clear skies with just the right balance of green house gases?

That, I hear, is up to you and me.



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