Minerals Matter

My sister was visiting at the weekend. While wandering around the city, I showed her my phone, and pointed out that it seemed to be prying apart on one side.

“I must have dropped it,” I said.

“Just get a new one,” she replied.

“NO! That’s why the world is in such a mess!” The strength of my reaction surprised me, and I apologised. I don’t like being too opinionated about things, but the constant product cycle upgrade madness our world is consumed by really gets my goat.

Every camera, smart-phone, tablet, laptop etc, is deliberately made out of date after a year, and we are mercilessly made to feel that our life will not be cool or worthwhile if we don’t keep up with the latest model.

We all know that, but what surprised me was when, a few days later, I was reading through a version of the Buddhist 5 Mindfulness Trainings – ethical guidelines for a happy, meaningful, life – and the theme cropped up again.

I read, “Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.”

I’d always thought the bit about the minerals was a bit odd. But that’s what the product replacement cycle business is all about – minerals. Everyone on the planet has the right to upgrade their smartphone every year, but if we all do, how long will the mineral supplies last? Will there be any left for ten generations down the line? Even three?

It’s hard to write about this stuff without sounding like a smug eco-crusader (and I recently bought a new camera after all), but the fact is that I am writing on a 6 year old laptop, I have a four year old phone, and a twelve year old car. And they all work beautifully. They are good enough. Long may they last.

Note: I realised the next morning that this post is about mindful consumption – and I saw that we can be mindful not only of what we eat, and what we read or watch on the screen (the media we consume and its effect on us), but of the way we consume every type of natural resource – plants, minerals, animals – and even of how we consume other people’s time and energies.

If we are mindful of everything we consume, on so many of these levels, our health, and that of the planet and everyone else that inhabits it, will surely be in better shape now and going forward.

4 thoughts on “Minerals Matter

  1. Hi Ben,

    This was a timely post for me. I’ve just finished Peace is Every Step, to which you introduced me in a previous post. (Thank you very much), and toward the end the author reflects on mindless consumerism, though he is too sweet to call it that. I was looking grumpily at my livingroom curtains today and wishing I had different ones, but with the book in mind, I sighed and decided to stick with them until they wear out. I can’t think of a good way to repurpose them. Your post confirmed for me that this is indeed the right course of action for me.

    Chris, writing on the three year old laptop which replaced her fifteen year old desk top!


    1. HI Chris,
      I am going to add a note about this above, but I realised the same thing on the way home from the school run this morning – this is about mindful consumption, on all levels. Thanks for your comment.



  2. Dear Ben

    I have been reading your blog for a while, and that of making time to live (beautiful photos by the way – and John too -, they take my breath away with their sheer skill and natural beauty and I love the fact that you both share them and enrich others lives too), but haven’t commented before.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful posts and all the consideration and mindfulness that goes into them. I really felt I must comment on this post though, as I myself am on a path to mindful consumption in my quest to live a more mindful and ethical life. Having been on this path for a couple of years, I am increasingly finding myself struggling to accept our society’s mindless consumption of the earth’s precious resources, amongst other things, and I feel frustrated about the apparent blindness about this. This is especially difficult to deal with in relation to people close to me, as like you I want to say no! Recently however I have decided to try and follow a different approach and instead of shouting no when such topics arise, trying to start a discussion about the issues and inform the other person of the facts, issues, research etc. While I don’t think it has changed others behaviour, I always hope something we have discussed may have seeped into their subconscious, and it feels like a more positive and pro-active approach to the issues that I feel passionately about. I am not sure this is the right way but it feels better for me than just no.

    Thank you again for your posts, I hope you know they make a difference to others lives and I for one am very grateful.


  3. Thanks Davey, I’m very grateful for your comment too. I think your approach sounds great. In the end you are planting seeds like this – it’s very difficult that people will change immediately, but the fact that you are talking to them about the reasons you are living with less might lead to changes over time that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred to them. I’m a great believer in the idea of planting seeds through simple mindful living. Also that we can’t force others to change, but we can, as the famous Gandhi quote says, be the change we want to see in the world.

    Thanks again for your kind comment.


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