Sunday, January 06, 2008

Use less useless stuff.

I had, once, done some back-of-the-envelope calculations which revealed that a total sum of Rs 2,50,000/- gets blown up each year by parents of 25 kids in my daughter’s class, in purchase of useless stuff for birthday parties.

It is an example of Metcalfe’s law that states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users. Though stated in the context of tele-communcations, this has implications in many fields.

For instance, greeting card companies exploit this law to good effect. I send cards to 25 people who in turn send them to 25 people (including me) and the number of transactions keeps growing exponentially. This must be a business worth several crores.

Someone gave me a calendar last week which contains ‘useful’ information on auspicious dates and other astrological details. I threw it in the dustbin, the minute the person left. I read somewhere that the printing of diaries and calendars is a multi-crore business, but more than 95% of the stuff produced is never put to use. Ten of you present me stuff that I don’t need and never can use. I do the same thing to ten of you. And so on.

The excuse that producing such stuff and distributing them, keeps several people employed should never be accepted. It can be argued, in the same tone, that smoking, bootlegging, drug-peddling, etc provide gainful employment to many and help their families.

Also, to justify the practice as a necessary part of social intercourse is wrong. Greetings and best wishes can be expressed verbally and passionately, without the accompaniment of material accessories.

As the “Story of Stuff” points out, a linear process of production-consumption-disposal in a single planet with finite resources simply cannot last indefinitely. We can start with avoiding distribution of the completely useless New Year gifts.


Anonymous said...

Hi Raj
Totally with you. Sent all Business Greetings by mail this year. Did not purchase any cards. Hence did not fund UNESCO.... Ur blog has reassured me that I made the right decision.
To good friends like you only a verbal passionate Happy New Year. A greeting is always good and welcome. But being a 'Pacchai Tamizhan' I do not celebrate on Jan 1st. In fact i sleep earlier than usual. Well and good, taking into account the 1 or 2 pieces of senseless revelry and misbehaviour reports that always make headlines.

Raj said...

sankar,good for you. But, hey, I did not get your mail wishing me for the New Year.

Anonymous said...

What happens in cases where people only receive and not give - me :D!! In that case, you are making me extremely happy - and no, I don't believe in verbal gifts; I trust in only what I can feel in my hands ;)

Stuffed Goofy! said...

Why not we circulate this specific blog to 10 ppl and they to 10 others? :P
Maybe, this mindless greeting card concepts, calender distribution and all that would stop, a decade hence? Oh what of Vijay Mallya and his super models :P

Fantastic blog! the whole thing, will take a while to go thru all of em, though!

Revathi said...

Totally agree

Unknown said...

nice one.. recently there was a program on NPR... some american dude who is supposed to be a "green guru" building an environment friendly city in china..

he even mentioned that in America, every house almost has a 12V or 18V based power tool set (with drills, power screw driver etc.) which someone in the family maybe uses for 5 mins in a year!!

The thing costs around 30-50$. But the damage it does to the env. to make the parts in this kit is 200 $..

his point was "why cant one person in the block own this kit and let people borrow this" or why cant the cities loan power tools like library's rent books.. could save a lot of impact to the earth...

great post..


Raj said...

Kiran, you can't cheat Metcalfe.

stuffedgoofie, welcome and take your time!

revathi : thanks.

sundar: Ha! America!