Friday, April 17, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

I'm afraid the anti-consumerism movement has a new enemy. 
Bed bugs.  

For the first time since World War II, bed bugs are making a comeback around the world with a vengeance.  In the US, the problem has become so bad that earlier this week, the EPA held a two-day summit on the pervasive problem of bed bugs.  Not only are the tiny blood-sucking insects showing up in powerful numbers, but they're also appearing in unexpected places. Cell phones.  Computer keyboards.  Clock radios.  Commonly thought of us a problem only in impoverished or badly maintained areas, the pests are now equal opportunity invaders.   Complaints are pouring in from people and businesses of all economic statuses, including 5-star hotels. 

One article I read speculated that an increase in world travel is helping to spread bed bugs, which makes sense.  Mike also pointed out to me that Craigslist might be another culprit.  People are trading furniture a whole lot more these days, and with bed bugs being so difficult to detect, it can be impossible to know if you're passing along a colony of vampires along with that charming used love seat.  And with that point, I panicked.  All of our furniture, even our mattress, were acquired used.  The majority of my clothes were second-hand purchases from thrift stores.  I'm a likely victim of bed bugs.  For the first time in my life, I found myself wanting to throw away my belongings and buy everything brand new in sterile plastic wrap, just to make sure I'm not bringing bed bugs home.  

Mind you, I'm not a very squeamish person, and I've never thought twice about picking up a bookshelf from the side of a dumpster and bringing it home.  If bed bugs are now making me rethink having used furniture, imagine how hard it's going to be to get squeamish people to be comfortable bringing used items into their home?  Anyone who ever previously hesitated buying used items is definitely going to avoid them now.  And with that realization, I panicked even more.  Bed bugs are terrible for the environment!  They could single handedly wipe out the growing trend toward exchanging used goods, and make the concept of landfill diversion just a myth from the past.  Because bed bugs are so hard to get rid of, if someone suspects a piece for furniture (or a cell phone, apparently) might be infested, their best bet is to just throw it away.  So not only are people not seeking used goods, but they are also more likely to get rid of things they would otherwise keep.  

Bed bugs are my new environmental nemesis.   We need to get rid of them to keep the loop of used goods in cycle.  I'm finding myself weighing the virtues of DDT.  There is apparently a natural powder that is harmless to mammals and the environment but kills bed bugs.  Maybe I'll buy stock in that company. 

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