Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oh, man has invented his doom, First step was touching the moon

Last weekend, I went to my good friend’s family home for the weekend. His parents were away do he decided to have a mini-party. It was at this gathering that I discovered one of the most ridiculous consumer goods ever and it got me thinking. The item in question was an electric pepper mill/grinder. Unlike the over-strenuous manual grinders this one released pepper at the push of a button and at the same time lit up the ‘landing area’ (ie: your plate or saucepan). The reason I started to think of this consumer good was that I found it, quite simply, completely unnecessary.

Taking a quick detour from my train of thought to look up such items on the internet revealed that the most expensive pepper grinder comes from a company called Peugeot (a subsidary of the car company). Here is a reproduction of the description from brilliant (I am being ironic) website Kitchenland.
All Peugeot mills have a robust and extremely reliable grinding mechanism that has a lifetime guarantee. The pepper mechanism was specifically designed to mill peppercorns and is not suitable for milling other spices. The Peugeot brand is the brand most favoured by professional chefs. The reason chefs prefer Peugeot is that the grinding mechanism produces the most consistent grind. Most other mills have a tendency to flake the peppercorns, producing irregular sized bits of pepper. The pepper develops more flavour when it is milled at the time of use.
Pure marketing bullshit, it deserves a medal. Good job that this one doesn’t flake those peppercorns! The cost to you, Joe Public, so that all your peppercorn fantasies can come true is only £44.95.

If humankind is forever expanding its horizons, finding out more and more about our origins, our future, creating new and exciting inventions to make our lives and our planet better then it is also creating ‘stuff’. This isn’t even a gadget, its pure kitchen porn designed to fulfil the human race’s desire for ‘stuff’. The real issue is, are we better off with or without this item? I would suggest that the costs of production outweigh the benefits.
Costs to society/environment:
- 100 underage sweatshop workers based in some country (probably in south east Asia)
- Transport (how much CO2 is release to ship/fly the grinders to the UK?)
- Distribution – petrol costs associated to delivery to warehouse and to shop/home
- Battery production costs (cost of production & environmental disposal costs)
- A slightly easier grinding of pepper
I would argue that the costs outweigh the benefits in this case. I believe that until society realises that we do not need such ‘stuff’ then we will never solve such grand issues like global warming or poverty.
It also reminds me of an article I read in my favourite newspaper, the Guardian. In this story on the expansion of Heathrow airport, a old local man states that they used to grow parsnips on the site where the runway now stands. Today Heathrow receives parsnips grown in Australia by jumbo jet. We truly do live in a bizarre world. Until people start to use commonsense then our children or children’s children or whatever will be royally fucked. If touching the moon was the first step then electric pepper grinders must be near the top of the staircase.

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