After discussing our political economy, I got very frustrated with the state of consumerism in our society. Last semester in my economics class, we learned about planned and perceived obsolescence, and since then I have seen it everywhere. It’s heightened presence in the rapidly expanding world of technology is extremely prominent and problematic. For example, phones and laptops are only designed to work for a few years, and within those few years, consumers are bombarded with advertisements convincing them that their product is inferior to the latest and greatest one even if the only real difference is a slightly different design. From then on, the consumer will be reminded of their products’ inferiority and will be judged on their contribution to society (or lack of) if they haven’t fed into the cycle of consumption recently.
From here, there’s also the problem of spatial fix: what do we do with all of this “useless” stuff that continues to accumulate? Many times it is shipped off to less developed countries whose citizens then have to deal with the environmental and public health implications, even though they had nothing to do with the trash accumulation in the first place.
It was also interesting to discuss nature as a social construction, especially after visiting the Chinese and Japanese gardens in Portland, and right before going camping in Yosemite National Park. These three areas that we consider “nature” are so different. The Japanese garden was very obviously a product of human labor: each tree was meticulously pruned and maintained, and there were tiny fences all around with incredible attention to detail. Everything was carefully chosen and placed with incredible thought, yet it was still considered nature.
As a contrast, Yosemite is barely maintained; nothing is really planted, and the only real maintenance that occurs is trail restoration to ensure that people can continue to enjoy Yosemite’s beauty. However in a sense, Yosemite is almost like a giant garden because it’s just a fraction of land that we decided was beautiful because of majestic cliffs and expansive forests. Why aren’t we as protective of rolling green hills or of pristine deserts? We go through life with preconceived notions of what’s beautiful and what nature should be, but it really depends on where you live. In many Asian countries, camping in Yosemite’s woods wouldn’t be relaxing and desirable, but scary and anxiety-provoking simply because of different social constructions of nature.