CHRIS JORDAN’S LENS on STATISTICS: Consumerism, Incarceration, Waste, Unconscious Behaviours and a refusal to ask who we really are

This passionate statistics-through-photography from Chris Jordan is startling and humbling—and reminds me to, yes!, be mind-blowingly disgusted by the ignorant lie of the War on Drugs, in light of cigarettes (tobacco companies!), prescribed drugs (drug companies!), and the non-sustainability and cruelty of excessive, compulsive incarceration (if not, something else has gone terribly wrong), and our collective inability to stop unnecessary waste every time we consume—eat, drink.

Don’t swallow the lie—believe in your discernment to make changes, to find great mentors, to step towards balance and love, towards expansion and possibility; to see this planet as life, as a being who responds to your actions—because that’s undeniably, scientifically true—and it’s a two-way, or rather infinitely multi-way street.

Check his photography/art website, and the stats therein; water bottles, cigarettes, breast augmentation and on and on. The numbers are, well, shocking to consume.


Granted, 300 million people is a lot of folks, but here are a few of the stats, depicted through photographs, on Chris’ website. Of course, I’m not sure of the accuracy of the stats, but cut them in half if you feel like it. Hell cut them by a half again.

—one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours.
—one hundred million toothpicks, equal to the number of trees cut in the U.S. yearly to make the paper for junk mail.
—two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
—83,000 Abu Ghraib prisoner photographs, equal to the number of people who have been arrested and held at US-run detention facilities with no trial or other due process of law, during the Bush Administration’s war on terror.
—200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months.
—2.3 million folded prison uniforms, equal to the number of Americans incarcerated in 2005 [my own note: 1 in 4 of ALL prisoners incarcerated worldwide are American].
—11,000 jet trails, equal to the number of commercial flights in the US every eight hours.
—426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.
—1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags, the number used in the US every hour.
—106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.
410,000 paper cups, equal to the number of disposable hot-beverage paper cups used in the US every fifteen minutes.
65,000 cigarettes, equal to the number of American teenagers under age eighteen who become addicted to cigarettes every month [the War on Drugs! Huh!]
213,000 Vicodin pills, equal to the number of emergency room visits yearly in the US related to misuse or abuse of prescription pain killers [1/3 of all overdoses].
29,569 handguns, equal to the number of gun-related deaths in the US in 2004.
60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.
—30,000 reams of office paper, or 15 million sheets, equal to the amount of office paper used in the US every five minutes.
—nine million wooden ABC blocks, equal to the number of American children with no health insurance coverage in 2007.
32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.
—3.6 million tire valve caps, one for each new SUV sold in the US in 2004.
—125,000 one-hundred dollar bills ($12.5 million), the amount our government spends every hour on the war in Iraq.
—170,000 disposable Energizer batteries, equal to fifteen minutes of Energizer battery production.
etc. etc.

Believe in beauty, my friends. And believe in changing oneself. In the Bhagavad Gita, it says that the most beautiful, conscious and healthy type of change is incremental (this increasingly conscious behaviour is considered to be sattvic, for those interested).

On the other hand, it can be unhealthy and unconscious (tamasic) to be immobilized by the enormity of problems, seen and unseen—so take a little step to whatever calls you towards more beauty, kindness, balance, community, self-knowledge.

It’s not easy to be human. We are here. Believe in a moment of giving more love, more thought, more attention. They add up.

I’m also excited by the countless beautiful people who really love, love, love a lot, and inspire me to remember, to love more. And this journey is sacred, no matter what our politicians, our scientists and our clergy (and our own actions) say and do, or don’t say and don’t do.

Wishing you lots of love,


PS I must throw in a song or three. Jean Paul Sartre, Wide Open, Ever-Blessed.


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