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The 'Atlas Of Stuff That Sucks' - A New Way To Document An Unjust World

German authors have found a new way of cataloging economic, social and environmental gaps between the Western industrialized world and developing countries. This sucky stuff atlas aims to heighten awareness of our wasteful society, a little bit of trivia

Laundry on the Niger (Julien Harneis)
Laundry on the Niger (Julien Harneis)
Claudia Ehrenstein

BERLIN - The title -- "Beschiss-Atlas," or Atlas of Stuff that Sucks – is not very refined. Then again, neither are the statistics that German authors Ute Scheub and Yvonne Kuschel list in their meaty 207-page collection of data illustrating the "economic, social and environmental injustices' in our world today.

For example: a domestic cat in Germany emits 2.2 tons of CO2 per year – about the same as an Egyptian person. The production of cat food, including its packaging, accounts for half the cat statistic; the other half is the disposal of used kitty litter and empty cat-food cans.

This is just one of the statistics the authors use to show the lifestyle differences between Western industrial countries and developing countries.

Nearly a billion people have no access to clean drinking water. A third of the world's population of seven billion suffers from permanent water shortage. Every year, about 17 million people die because they don't have enough money for medical treatment.

The choice of data is highly subjective. "We think everything that destroys nature, the economy or society -- short or long term -- is bad," says the self-critical foreword. Yet the authors also claim to have made a relevant selection by basing themselves on the shared "intuitive feeling" of all humans, the shared "sense what is fair and just."

And so astonishing, and often highly surprising, data fills the book:

  • In a single year, so much cotton is produced that 15 T-shirts for every inhabitant of planet Earth could be made from it.
  • If the Internet continues to grow at the present rate, by 2030 it will use up as much electricity as the whole world's population does today.
  • 7% of the world's population is linked on Facebook.
  • There are presently up to 800 million weapons in the world.
  • The mining of a single gram of gold for a wedding ring produces up to 750 tons of residue.

Some of the statistics are specific to Germany – for example, the value of a German pensioner's retirement money has fallen 7% since 2001 due to inflation and spiraling social costs. The unemployed are sick more often than those with jobs. Interestingly, those who are least sick are "people who write or produce art."

In the annex, the authors painstakingly document the sources of their data and facts. Sometimes the data is already outdated – the atlas gives the figures for the amount of food wasted in Germany as 20 million tons per year but that a recent government study in Germany now puts the amount at 11 million.

Despite such occasional disparities, it is absolutely worth perusing this unusual publication thankfully free of complicated flow charts and abstract diagrams – instead, it uses comics-style illustrations to render the material visually accessible. That doesn't suck.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Julien Harneis

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The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

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