Sunday, June 3, 2007

JMO - Being average

Ok, we're all not average, or so we like to think. We excel in some areas, do poorly in many, and are close to average for many things too. But it's not about being average, it's about being defined as average. Not those statistics about your ability, talent, experience, pay, job, etc., but about the your consumption. Huh?

Ok, I'll explain. I was watching a NASCAR race recently and they started talking about the number of sets of tires each race team in allowed for this one race. I realized each team used more sets of tires in one race than I use in my lifetime of cars. And there are 43 teams for 37 races in just one NASCAR series, meaning add the Craftsman truck and Busch series, and the numbers really begin to add up. Then there's the ARCA-ReMax series, and all the regional and local race events. That's a lot of tires used by just a few thousand race teams.

Well, that got me to thinking all the statistics the studies and experts cite about our average consumption. Well, that means all those tires are added into the total we all use. Ok, that's small compared to the rest of the population. But not really. I've only owned one car at a time most of the time, and only when I was married did we have two cars for brief periods. That means all those families with two, three or more cars far and away offset my efforts to save.

And add all the commerical trucks and their tires, after all the biggest consumer of tires are the trucking companies, you get a lot of tires being used every year. And all those are compiled into the total numbers for the statistics which reduces everything to an average. This means it doesn't matter what you do, everyone else is effecting what the average is and what you are doing to the environment as the average.

Ok, and what do I drive and how do I drive that I can say I save? Well, my latest, and hopefully last, vehicle is a 1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro, meaning it's a 4-wheel drive VW van. Cool, huh? Well, ok to some it is. It's fairly big and boxy, but it carries a lot (7 people with stuff, 1-ton of cargo, big stuff like couches, beds, etc.), has a folding back seat into a 6x8 foot bed (way cool for naps), and drives like a bus (you sit over the front tires). I only drive about 10-12,000 miles per year, so even with my mileage (18-20 mpg) I don't use a lot of fuel or tires.

Reading about the national averages about cars sounds depressing. But it's the reality of our existence in this country and our society as a whole, and then reduced to averages. This applies to fuel consumption too. One of those race teams use more fuel in one race weekend I use in one year, and everything adds up from there. Gee, being average really sucks sometimes. You tried hard to save and be good to the environment, and everyone else just blows your efforts out the door.

But then I also own a HDTV and the other trappings of our society. It's hard to get through life without being up to date. I had to replace my old (1982) TV when it quit after the roof leaked on it. And everything else in your life is similar, everything you consume adds to the total and adds to the "average" consumer. In the end we're all lumped together in our consumption and all are average.

Unless we each of us change to better or less consumption, the average doesn't move, as for every one of us there are others doing the opposite. And as the whole, the average only stays the same at best, and increases at worst as more of us consume more and more. But that's another subject for discussion.


  1. What else is there if not consumption for consumption's sake? It's good for the economy, and that's that.

  2. And that, as you correctly state, is also the problem. When will we realize that consumption for its own sake isn't the answer to a better life?

    What good is my saving on energy, etc., partly because I have to manage my money, if there are far more people spending or using more than me? We're all just one, but I'd rather be on the less side of the balance for consumption. But then there are some things I do like that aren't.

    But what worries me is the needless drive to the lowest price or quality. All this does is drive us to the lowest common demoninator in the world for our standard of living. When the majority of us can't even afford that, what's next? Do we want to be an economy like China where we can't afford the products we make?