The World As A Giant Lego Tower

Over the history of the Lego company, more than 600 billion plastic bricks have been produced, which means about a hundred bricks for every living person on Earth. Impressive, but it amounts to only 1.5 Gt of carbon in total (2.5 grams per brick), that is about 15% of the yearly carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels. Of course, being the bricks solid, they won't contribute to global warming, but they will slowly degrade and enter the food chain. Our descendants (if there will be any) will eat the toys we played with! But, here, the pollution caused by Lego bricks is not discussed but they are used as a metaphor for our society.

lego.tower

The lego brick that constitutes the foundation of the tower has a fixed number and distribution of holes (we did not choose these: they were already there when we opened the box, and at the moment the toy store has no other boxes for sale). It follows that the smaller bricks that we add on top of it, which give shape to the tower, interlock with the foundation brick only if their ledges are compatible with its holes.

The stability of the tower, they say, is a function of the compatibility of the bricks with one another and with the structure as a whole. The most important brick is of course the one at the bottom. By forcing incompatible bricks into the foundation brick over and over, with time we can damage its holes, to the point where even bricks that once would have been perfectly compatible with it would give the tower sub-optimal results in terms of stability.

 

Inside the box we found a small manual (the kind that nobody ever reads). It contains some definitions useful to building and maintaining the tower.

Definitions

Mainstream economics: the idea that the bricks in the box are scarce but the possibilities infinite.

Green economy: the idea that among the infinite possibilities of mainstream economics, there is a way of making the scarce bricks infinitely reusable.

Consumerism: the idea that the bricks are infinite, and can thus be wasted. Paradoxically, this idea is based on the belief that the bricks in the box are scarce but the possibilities infinite.

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