Words that express concepts

Mottanai is a Japanese word which expresses shame over needless waste.

We may think that awareness about the environmental challenges we are facing has been increasing, and it may be so, particularly among very young people. However, if we look at the facts we may wonder if what it may seem a growth of awareness is correlated to the actions that are being taken.

According to the World Bank’s report “What a Waste”, the world generates 2.01 billion tons of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33 percent of that -extremely conservatively- not managed in an environmentally safe manner. When looking forward, global waste is expected to grow to 3.40 billion tons by 2050, more than double the population growth over the same period. There is nothing new in saying that there is a positive correlation between waste generation and income level.

From a quick glance to these figures we might think if what we are doing is relatively close to what it could be considered enough to manage our waste generation problem. These numbers may make us reflect on how we reached a point in which things turned into “easily disposable”; how we have somehow lost appreciation for things.

In his latest book “No things”, philosopher Byung-Chul Han describes how the dearest things are becoming increasingly rare since we have become societies of disposable items. He suggests that having opened the way to a world of dispensable articles reflects an impersonal society, a society in which we do not have time for the other, where feeble ties prevail and strong ties progressively lose importance. Weak ties accelerate consumption, making strong ties unproductive.

Han states that things are now dead, since they are not used but rather consumed. He proposes that things have lost their own weight, their own life, as only the prolonged use of things provides them with a soul; only the dearest things have life… He argues that if only disposable and consumable objects predominate in the world, we cannot engage in a relationship with it.

But it seems to me that we do have the immense power to really engage with it, to find new ways to romanticize out relationship with the world. We can leverage our positive potency of doing something, as minuscule and insignificant as it may seem, because as American author Edward Everett Hale, once stated:

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

1 Comment

  1. Haru Hermosa. Muchas gracias por moverme el tapete en tus siempre muy atinadas reflexiones y por siempre aportar. Aquí evocaste mis recuerdos sobre el magistral discurso del Dr. Carlos Llano hizo sobre la Necesario y lo Superfluo el la presentación de su libro Viaje al Centro del Hombre al hablar de la pleonexia materialista (apetito insaciable de cosas de carácter material). También un poco el capítulo XI del Tao Te King de Lao Tse que habla sobre la utilidad del vacío. Me gustaron mucho tus citas de Han sobretodo cuando habla de que las cosas queridas son cada vez más raras y solo las cosas queridas tienen vida …
    En fin, nuevamente muchas gracias porque siempre me despiertas la inquietud intelectual.
    Un gran y cariñoso abrazo.