« More on the Way | Main | History Lesson »

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83425bc0d53ef00d8345b6ef269e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Why Does Morgan Spurlock Hate Recycling?:

» Why Does Morgan Spurlock Hate Recycling? from The Agitator
Check the Spurlock site for my take on last night's episode of 30 Days.... [Read More]

Comments

Anonymous Joe

"Communes and Luddite farms are fine, so long as we approach them
with the understanding that they are, at heart, parasitic."

This is a peculiar assertion. How are they parasitic? If a farm
produces more than it consumes, then its not parasitic. They may have
a lower break even point than a typical farm because of reuse of
resources.

I don't know enough to claim that on the average your "Luddite" farms
take more than they make, but I don't believe thats what your saying.

This slam is off topic for M.S. Watch anyway.

Also, maybe italic and paragraph tags could be left in comments?

Boyd Durkin

Parasitic in that Luddite farms do not produce many of the things, if you are honest, you find useful. Healthcare is the primary example I use. The hippie farmer benefits from the big city doctor using big city surgical equipment and big city training to operate on his child if injured.

A secondary example is National Defense. Compare a self-sufficient farm in Vermont to a self-sufficient farm in Nairobi and you'll get the idea. Now if you want to enjoy the lifestyle of a Nairobi farmer, you'll likely have a harsh 30 year existence before you pass to the big pasture in the sky, not the bucolic Vermont-hippie existence.

Brian

Parasitic might not be the right word but on reflection I am not sure what is.

A commune can support itself with few inputs from the outside. But Boyd is right - absent a wealthy society the people living that way are doomed to a miserable, but short, life.

Health care is only one aspect - education, defense against predation (human and animal) and so on are others.

Anonymos Joe

Boyd wrote: "Parasitic in that Luddite farms do not produce many of
the things, if you are honest, you find useful. Healthcare is the
primary example I use. The hippie farmer benefits from the big city
doctor using big city surgical equipment and big city training to
operate on his child if injured."

Agreed, though I'm not sure that they any more parasitic (in terms of
the things I honestly find useful) than the a large segment of the
rest of the population. E.g. plastic surgeons, traditional farmers
who survive on subsidies, classical musicians, marketing people, meter
maids, etc. Not that other people may find extremely necessary, they just
don't do anything for me.

Boyd wrote: "A secondary example is National Defense. Compare a
self-sufficient farm in Vermont to a self-sufficient farm in Nairobi
and you'll get the idea. Now if you want to enjoy the lifestyle of a
Nairobi farmer, you'll likely have a harsh 30 year existence before
you pass to the big pasture in the sky, not the bucolic Vermont-hippie
existence."

These examples are less clear to me. I guess your assuming that a
luddite farm doesn't sell much and doesn't contrib much to the tax
base and thus much to National Defense. Dunno enough to comment on how
these actual farms work (or what they pay) to say anything useful.

So if the Vermont farmer died at 30, you wouldn't consider him as
parasitic because he had a lower amortized cost to the rest of the
world?


Brian wrote: "A commune can support itself with few inputs from the
outside. But Boyd is right - absent a wealthy society the people
living that way are doomed to a miserable, but short, life."

Health care is only one aspect - education, defense against predation
(human and animal) and so on are others."

Again this seems true of almost all groups. If in a poor society, you
are not parasitic and contribing far more than you take, then you will
still be "doomed to a miserable, but short life"

labrat

The problem with rendering is that it cannot stop transmission of prions and other infectious proteinous particles- they easily refold after exposure to high temperatures and readily contrbute to misfolding of other, native proteins. Spurlock may be inane in suggesting that feeding cattle back to cattle is gross, but the fact that the nation's meat based food supply is constantly exposed to various protein based diseases without any form of testing until after the animal has developed it is quite dead-on and alarming. Whether the prions arise from sheep and make a species jump, or naturally in cows themselves, the sheer quantity of rendered processed meat that the animals get exposed to guarantees that Britian's Mad Cow epidemic will (not may) happen sometime soon in the US.

Radley Balko

Labrat,

True, but rendering plants don't utilize ruminant brain or nervous system tissue, where BSE prions generally reside. What's more, rendering actually makes any prions that may slip through less active and likely to cause problems later.

Even in Britain, there have been just 146 cases of human-form mad cow. That's hardly an epidemic.

It's a stretch to say that the U.S. meat supply is constantly exposed to protein-based diseases. There has yet to be a single case of human Mad Cow contracted from American meat. This from billions and billions of pounds of rendered biomass. The odds of any one person contracting a fatal disease from rendering are near infintismal. We take far greater risks every hour of every day without much thought at all.

Spurlock's aim here was scaremongering and nausea induction. The latter is unnecessary. The former simply isn't supported by the evidence.

AJ -- My point was merely to point out that if we all adopted this lifestyle, we'd all be very hungry very quickly. These people were portrayed as living "off the grid" -- that is, independent of and in spite of consumer society. That's their perogative. But they're still dependent on the very consumer society they loathe. Without it, they couldn't live the lifestyle they've chosen.

Perhaps "parasitic" wasn't the right word.

Apophenious

Regardless of the appropriateness of the term "parasitic," RB certainly seems to have hit on a good point. On a large scale, it would seem quite infeasible to have dancing rabbit style communes all over the place: someone has to make the photovoltaic cells to provide electricity, someone has to make (or render, perhaps?) and use the large quantities of vegetable oil they recycle for fuel, among other things. These activities require much electric power (not to mention well-honed / well-educated brainpower), resources I imagine would not be in great supply on a commune that runs on biomass and scrapes by at a virtually subsistence level. (Who has the luxury for full-time school when you must spend the bulk of your time growing vegetables to eat?)

While the above would also hold true for classical musicians and consultants, in my experience those two categories of people do not exude the sheer self-righteousness and moral superiority that Spurlock and his Dancing Rabbit comrades do. Nor, for that matter, do musicians and consultants try to convert others to their lifestyle.

Finally, if everyone lived on an eco-commune, how would they make money to buy photovoltaic cells? You would have to produce a lot of surplus vegetables to purchase that sort of sophisticated equipment, especially since everyone at every other commune grows and cells vegetables too, thus depressing the price.

Capt Vee

"Britian's Mad Cow epidemic will (not may) happen sometime soon in the US."

The problem is that Britain's Mad Cow epidemic hasn't happened in Britain yet. A grand total of 150 people have died from vCJD (the disease associated with eating infected beef) 1995-2005.

While that's a shame for those people, ina country of over 60 million, that hardly qualifies as an epidemic of any sort. Booze kills far more in a good month. Indeed three to four times as many people die from the 'rare' disease of CJD which is NOT caused by ingesting BSE infected cattle, but occurs naturally in one out of every million or so people.

http://www.cjd.ed.ac.uk/figures.htm

Finally, if we have indeed identified the cuplrit as eating BSE infected beef (and there is still some debate as to whether we have), the steps we have taken should either eliminate or drastically reduce the chances for cattle and human transition of the linked diseases (BSE and vCJD).

yhf074

Parasitic is an accurate description of this farm (Dancing Rabbit). It appears most of their land is in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), therefore the federal government is paying them to NOT farm the land.

Anonymous Joe

Apophenious wrote: "While the above would also hold true for classical musicians and
consultants, in my experience those two categories of people do not
exude the sheer self-righteousness and moral superiority that Spurlock
and his Dancing Rabbit comrades do. Nor, for that matter, do musicians
and consultants try to convert others to their lifestyle."

Ok, so you find hippie farmers self-righteous and arrogant. What does
that have to do with the fact that this farming is impractical on a
large scale? So if they were not asses, then all of a sudden your
opinion about the (mis)use of their resources and energies would
change?

Apophenious wrote: "Finally, if everyone lived on an eco-commune, how would they make
money to buy photovoltaic cells? You would have to produce a lot of
surplus vegetables to purchase that sort of sophisticated equipment,
especially since everyone at every other commune grows and cells
vegetables too, thus depressing the price."

Again, why is this argument not applicable to any (hyperbolically)
large group of homogenous people?

Marla

"They aren't applicable in the macro. That is, if we all lived this way, we'd all starve."

Perhaps so, but I consider these places to be like research labs - we won't discover what WILL work for larger society unless we're actively looking.

Evan Williams

"Again, why is this argument not applicable to any (hyperbolically)
large group of homogenous people?"

AnonJoe: it IS applicable; however, those "large groups of homogenous people" don't make self-righteous claims of autonomy from the "evil consumer culture". The commune farmers DO. Why would those other groups of people need to argue against something that they never asserted in the first place?

Anonymous Joe

Evan Williams wrote: "it IS applicable; however, those "large groups
of homogenous people" don't make self-righteous claims of autonomy
from the "evil consumer culture". The commune farmers DO. Why would
those other groups of people need to argue against something that they
never asserted in the first place?"

I keep pointing this out because this is a 'Morgan Spurlock' watch
blog, not a 'My opinion on J. Random group of people'. yhf074 got it.
Spurlock presents this particular group of hippie farmers as if they
were great, even though that claim is highly questionable.

Again, what difference does it make that Vermont hippies are
self-righteous? If they make no propaganda or lots of it, that
doesn't change their value, lack thereof, or Spurlocks presentation of
them.

Really this is all a minor annoyance. The article would have been
great without the 'parasite' paragraph, which makes an off-topic slam
on a generalization of a group of people (which is just applicable to
many other groups) instead of pointing the factual details of this
misrepresentation of this farm.

Evan Williams

I disagree, AJ. It's not off-topic at all. Spurlock's show romanticizes these commune farms---basically, spreading propaganda and misinformation. Their attitudes play a factor in how they are perceived just as much as the reality of their inefficiency does. Thus, it is certainly pertinent to address those attitudes in such a discussion.

Ryan

Apophenious, you sound almost like the late Leonard Read's essay "I, Pencil."

Worth reading if you haven't already: http://www.fee.org/vnews.php?nid=3469

Martin

Concerning the above comments about Mad Cow Disease not being an American problem, I urge you to look here;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4621139.stm

The prion protein that causes BSE (Mad Cow Disease) in cows cannot be destroyed at ultra-high temperatures. It survives furnace-like conditions. Here in the UK we have been told many times by the authorities not to panic about it. Then another piece of evidence comes along that is worrying;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3610096.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3776025.stm

And for the comment above about nvCJD - the Mad Cow variant in humans - being a very small, isolated problem. Well, I hope you are right. Some scientists are urging caution as they say the recent deaths may be a small first wave, and that, because the disease is thought to have a long incubation time in humans, there could be a much bigger second wave in the years to come. This is not scaremongering. Look here;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3539156.stm

You should be most worried about emerging viruses from the bush meat trade in the African Congo region. That might threaten all of us.

actus

"The hippie farmer benefits from the big city doctor using big city surgical equipment and big city training to operate on his child if injured."

So does the non-hippy computer scientist.

The Unbeliver

The non-hippy computer scientist, however, pays for the surgery out of his own pocket (or pays indirectly via insurance premiums). The hippy gets a free ride since the hospital is required to treat him regardless of ability to pay. Therefore in this case, assuming no outside employment or health arrangements, the commune members are parasitic.

Anyone want to guess at the health insurance package at Dancing Rabbit?

actus

"The non-hippy computer scientist, however, pays for the surgery out of his own pocket (or pays indirectly via insurance premiums). The hippy gets a free ride since the hospital is required to treat him regardless of ability to pay."

Where is this hospital, because I'd like to go to it. And how about the non-hippy low-wage, uninsured, help-desk worker? Parasite?

Doug

Morgan sez he produced a movie about the commercialization of Christmas.... and it's going to be released in November? Hmmmmm.... perhaps he should release it in January? I giggle at the irony.

Fare

This argument is fundamentally flawed. Perhaps, MS is mistaken that "rendering" is a harmful practice. Yet, even if he is, it doesn't make his fondness of recycling inconsistent. At the very least, you must show that MS is not merely mistaken about "rendering" but that he realizes it is harmful, and yet persists, inconsistently (hypocritically?) in his fondness for recycling. For it seems altogether likely that MS' fondness for recycling is due to its benefits to people and the planet. It is this benefit, not recycling per se, that MS' is fond of. So even if "rendering" is a form of recycling he can consistently reject it, because it does not benefit people or the planet (or so he might believe).

Fare

"Communes and Luddite farms are fine, so long as we approach them with the understanding that they are, at heart, parasitic. They may shun technology, markets, and commerce but technology, markets, and commerce make it possible for them to exist. They aren't applicable in the macro. That is, if we all lived this way, we'd all starve."

How is that we live today. At some point, in the past, humans existed without technology, markets, or commerce. Somehow they did not ALL starve.

Parasite = take more than contribute. You are the burden of proving that all or most communards and so on take more than they contribute. For example, many communards use alternative health remedies.

Hamish

um but there werent around 6 BILLION people back then, heack not even 1 billion, those farms maaaay work for a small comunity but if you try to do it with a large amount of people, i.e. our entire population then we will be going back to the Dark Ages.

Nicole Reaves

So, if you have a country that is at war, quickly filling up with dead bodies, the smartest thing to do is "render" them and mix their dried up protiens with cow and pig feed? I think that like a lot of people, Morgan is saying that it's plain nasty. These are living beings, not products, the whole system is disgusting and as a society, we shouldn't do this, it's not right.

Yes they do

YES THEY DO. I had a friend who worked at a tallow factory. He went around in a truck and collected road kill, dead cattle, your pet cat furball, and turned them into FEED AND TALLOW. But their arn't ANY additives in a Mc Donalds hamburger... Just good wholesome stuff. A wonderful capitalist franchise.

The comments to this entry are closed.