Humans Are Exceptional: A Business Premise

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Premise 1: The Station of Humanity

We address the shallowest question first, that of the station of humanity in the grand supposed pyramid of nature.

Are we on top? If so, why and how and how can we stay that way? If not, why do so many of us act like we are?

Do we reign over the animal kingdom? Who says it's a kingdom? Some guy?

Business presumes that humans are exceptional.

For each of these presumptions posing as premises, we'll examine a Busyness example or two, and then we'll explore Easeness in the same field.

These Kicks Were Made for Landfills

And that's just where they'll spend most of their several thousand-year lifespans. In a hurry to turn a profit selling cushioned steps to kids who want to look as cool as the cats on the court, we've created millions of tons of shoe-shaped plastic trash, every two treads trod upon for weeks or maybe months, outgrown or outmoded, then tossed in the back of the closet, the goodwill bin, over a power line, or sometimes straight in the ocean, skipping the middle bins. Busyness is booming for sneakers and kicks, and while the shelf life is short, the life span of these wonders of textile technology far surpasses anyone who touches them by a factor of twenty.

Yes, your sneakers may outlive you twenty times over.

See, the rubber sole may take 50 to 80 years to decompose, but if the upper is synthetic leather, that means it is likely PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which was discovered 148 years ago in 1872. Since then, no one has yet witnessed the natural decomposition of PVC. We know that it takes longer than 148 years, and the natural decomposition we have observed has been so incomplete that the estimated life span of PVC is more than 1000 years. In 2016 alone 61 million tons of PVC were produced.

What will they do in the centuries to come when plastic displaces the ocean? Will we seal the seabed in polymers so we can swim our VR drones from coast to coast, reef to barren reef, without encountering any gunky carbonoids? Le sigh…

And on the other side of the coin, the consumer side, we find just as much harmful busyness. Nike ushered in the padded-foam-soled running shoe in the 60s. In the earlier days, they cobbled and peddled sponge-rubber-soled Cortezes out of the backs and sides of vans. Then in the 70s Nike and their pacing competitors began to layer EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate, which also lasts at least 1000 years) into the midsoles for support and cushioning and "shock absorption" and the market exploded. But why? What was behind this epidemic demand for shock absorption?

My intuition points at the pavement. If we were to extend our examination to the paving and flooring industries, I bet we'll find a boom in sidewalks, streets, and cement foundations that tracks the skyrocketing sneaker biz. And pavement is hard on the bones, especially for us upright apes to stomp around on all day. Our hips, ankles, knees, and toes were made for forest floors, not terrazzo mall tiles. These so-called sneakers must have felt like heaven, pillowy rescue boats for our parents' and their parents' barking dogs.

Fast forward to fifty years later, we've leveled and paved exponentially more of the surface area of fair Gaia, and we've pumped out tens of millions of tons of EVA and hundreds of millions of tons of PVC all of which will probably be around in the year 3030 (better keep 'em mint), long after the pavement has returned to dust. All in the name of what? Comfort? Style? Progress? Legacy? Happiness, or more accurately the futile and failing pursuit of happiness?

In all likelihood during this potentially irreparable plastic bonanza, we simply didn't ask "Why?"

This brings us to the premise in question: humans are exceptional. That's the reason we never stopped to wonder whether we ought to keep paving, or whether we ought to break ground on a new EVA or PVC production plant, or whether we ought to clad the kiddos in knockoff Jordans. We are the supreme beings. We do these things because we can. Those other apes can chew bamboo, check out my Sketchers Safari boots. Yup, 40% off on Black Friday.

That was rough. Before we end up neck-deep in acidic analyses like these, let me assure you, I am guilty of all of the crimes of consumerism mentioned above. This is not a criticism of the Other, it is an examination of the Self we share. I'm looking at my worn old sneaks now. They're too small, hurt to walk in, the foam is all but flattened, and the outsole has pretty well worn off. But they have more miles to go than I'll ever know. What do I do with these? How can I take it easy on the kicks?

A Tenet of Easeness: Humans are acceptable.

Meanwhile, in many parts of the world, there are folks who have walked a lifetime of steps with nary a mile in thousand-year shoes like mine. They operate on a different premise, one not nearly as hyperbolic as the exceptionalism that would dwarf the Andes with Air Jordan Mountains and pave the Amazon River to bring 2-day delivery to the last bastion of nature's chaotic wickedness. They will admit that humans are acceptable and sacred, and nothing more, just like every child of Gaia.

These of Earth's children also tend to their tender soles without forgetting to tend better still to our tender souls. Their brave young glide through the trees shod in the generous hide of a fallen four-footed friend, a joy we in the technocracy encounter in mangled echoes as we dart through traffic to slip into grippy Vibram at the rock gym.

While we are sitting in a national timeout, we continue to ease up on the gas, to ease back on the kicks, and return to the Source for shoe tips. The Source would have us outlive our shoes. We would know their origin, care for them as they care for us, and when they have put in their paces, we would dedicate them as food for another being, another process.

So far only the most sovereign cobblers have begun to operate thusly and to encourage their shodden followers to trot along. Pioneers like Sole Rebels in Ethiopia

The path to responsible footwear is fraught with peril and shrouded in the mists of deception. Lest ye tiptoe into ethical quicksand, keep in mind that vegan leather is often polyurethane (which has upwards of a 700-year life span).

Even Nike offers a glamourless afterthought in this direction with their Reuse-a-Shoe program and the Move to Zero greenwashing campaign. At least they impliedly (but not culpably) admit just how far there is to go. Peep this brag: "Made out of 50% recycled materials, Nike's new VaporMax sneakers are the brand's most sustainable shoe to date and are leading the way forward to the brands Move to Zero journey."


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