Monday, 29 July 2013

Scarcity Breeds Increased Value

The environment that you live most of your time in has a large impact on your worldview/beliefs. Wherever you live or spend most of your time, there will be things (material and immaterial) that are either abundant or scarce. If something is scarce then it usually makes it more valuable (but why this is so I simply don't know. Perhaps certain psychologies value things because they are scarce, whereas other psychologies do not consider scarcity to be important). Take for instance modern day city dwellers, they live in urban environments made of brick, steel, tarmac and concrete where vegetation and animal life is scarce (you don't see many horses, cows or chickes wandering around outside the local 7-11 or the high street). This scarcity thus makes plants and animals more valuable to the city dweller, where they are rare, compared to the country dweller, where they are abundant. Now, becuase they are scarce and valuable, the city dweller looks upon them as 'things to value' 'things to cherish', which give rise to city based beliefs such as Vegetarianism and Environmentalism. This exact same phenonmena occured back in India circa 500 BC when the Jainist belief system was founded in the cities of the time where animal and plant life was also scarce. And what is the prime practice of Jainaism? To be vegetarian and not kill or harm any living thing, just like modern day Vegetarians. Is it merely coincidence that Jainism and Vegetarianism, which are both similar in practice and beliefs, were born in Cities and not rural environments? Possibly, but it seems unlikely to me. It seems more the case that the beliefs formed as a result of the environment that the people lived in.

Just like with city dwellers valuing plants and animals which are scarce, other environments cause people to value other things which are scarce.
 - Hunter gathererers value technology because it is scarce in the jungle. (cf. Cargo Cultists).
 - Northern Europeaners value citrus fruits because they don't grow in temporate climates. (cf. rented Pineapples).
- Small pox is valued by scientists because only two vials of it exist on Earth.
- Prisoners value tobacco because they don't have easy access to it in prison. (cf. the blackmarket value of tobacco in prisons).

Conversely, where some people may value that which is scarce, these same people do not value that which is abundant. In modern day industrialised cities food is abundant and is often disgarded because of minor blemishes or imperfections. Take the staple grain of the world for instace, wheat: wheat is only ~$150/ton. Per ton! Which is food enough to keep a man alive for ~2.7 years (assuming he eats a kilogram of wheat, ~2500 kCal, per day).

What is the possible alternative to valuing things based on how abundant or scarce they are? Perhaps instead of valuing things for themselves, not in relation to anything else is the way forwarrd. Not valuing a thing because it is either scarce or abundant, but simply because it is. Perhaps by taking this approach then we'll be able to appreciate each thing as a unique item, independent of other things.


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