Since the creation of New Escapologist, I’ve met a number of people with passions for dumpster diving, junk reclamation, and food foraging.
Personally, I don’t go in for the salvaging lark. I’m too squeamish and I’m skeptical about the economies. Nevertheless, I respect that many people find liberty in such activities.
I mention this because I just finished reading The Scavengers’ Manifesto.
The general idea of reusing or repurposing found objects is admirable. “Waste not, want not” is some fine inherited wisdom. Scavenging (if we must call it that: the authors are keen to reclaim the word) to save money and to minimise one’s impact upon the natural world are actions quite compatible with the Escapologist’s life.
Trouble is, scavenging is made redundant by minimalism: the system to which the more determined Escapologist would subscribe. As a minimalist, I’m aloof to the material world. Scavenging reduces want, but I’ve already surgically removed my want.
When the authors breezily list the treasures they’ve acquired through scavenging, I can only think “I desperately don’t want any of that crap. I don’t even want to think about any of that crap”.
It’s a shame that so much usable stuff is discarded in our wasteful society, and it’s admirable that the scavenger seeks to intercept some of that stuff and to extract extra value from it. But as a minimalist, I don’t contribute to such detritus, and I wish that other people didn’t either.
Minimalism trumps consumerism both financially and environmentally, but scavenging is just another form of consumerism and is wholly dependent upon big consumerism.
Scavenging focuses on the middle element of the three Rs of environmentalism: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I’ve long felt that reusing and recycling are inferior measures to reduction: once a natural material has been converted into a commercial commodity, it might as well already be in the landfill. Reducing (through minimalism) is where we should focus our environmental efforts.
Liquid cash in the bank, instead of tied up depreciating in material commodities (scavenged or otherwise) is also, generally speaking, a preferable financial situation offered exclusively by minimalism.
“Waste not, want not” is a fine philosophy compared to blind consumerism. But “Want not, want not” is a far more dignified and productive maxim.
Cheer up, scavengers. Here’s a picture of dead billionaire Steve Jobs in his apartment. Look, he’s got practically nothing!