The future's hard to swallow

A US Gulf War veteran who calls himself ''Shoenice'' has clocked up more than 50 million views on YouTube with videos of himself eating stuff like sticks of deodorant, pencils, a jar of Vegemite and a poster of Justin Bieber. In 30 seconds, he'll drink bottles of vodka, glue and shampoo, wolf down pine cones, VapoRub, crayons, and cat litter - it's an almost daily car crash.

Cluster Mag's Brad Troemel describes Shoenice as ''a tragic and self-sacrificial figure, a court jester performing to appease his own conception of fame: a person who is willing to commit not only his time in the present moment but his future body and health to the pursuit of attention''.

Troemel's words got me thinking about how so many people do the same thing as Shoenice, but in a somewhat less ostentatious manner.

The guy who injects himself with steroids to get ''ripped'' or fortifies himself with lines of coke at a pick-up bar is also mortgaging his future health with what he puts into his body. So, too, the cigarette-smoking woman with breast implants, and the junk-food-scoffing fat kid who's half deaf from his iPod.

Troemel suggests that ''Shoenice's violent consumption stands as a hyperbolic vision of what we each do to our own bodies as we spend our lives munching corn chips and sipping mixed drinks''.

''We empathise with Shoenice because we understand the grotesque nature of his consumption as an extension of our own gluttony and complicity.''

This is where Troemel and I part company because I don't see much understanding among most people as they ask for a plastic bag to carry home their bread, which is already in a plastic bag.

As one widely circulated internet meme puts it: ''It's pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it and bring it home is considered less effort than what it takes to just wash a spoon when you're done with it.''

Yet that's where we're at and, like every other civilisation that's come before us, we blithely assume the party will go on forever.

But the real obscenity is that our consumption is not only mortgaging our future, but that of every human to follow; we're racking up debts that our grandchildren will have to pay.

I have a map called the ''World History Timeline'' stuck to the wall in front of my desk at home which illustrates the hundreds of empires and peoples who have populated our planet since about 3000BC.

What's stunning is how many there are and how many of them stretched over thousands of years, then disappeared. Obviously many were wiped out by enemies or disease, but plenty simply imploded under their own weight.

The globe is peppered with ancient, abandoned cities that killed themselves through processes such as deforestation and siltation - the immediate desire for firewood and pastureland obviating fears of erosion, crop failure and starvation.

Still, I imagine even the most uneducated AD200 goat-herder would shake their head if you told them we chop down trees so we can wipe our bottoms with two-ply.

Shoenice? You can send him emails suggesting what he eats next. I think he's done toilet paper, so I'm going to propose plastic spoons.