My grandmother scared me into an environmental consciousness. I blew my nose into a kleenex and threw it into the trash. She exploded. You’d think I grabbed some eggs out of the frig and started throwing them around the kitchen just before I threw a chair out the window. She was that angry and continued to berate me for hours afterward.
I should have reused that kleenex, or better yet, used a washable cotton handkerchief.
My grandmother knew nothing about any conservation, recycling effort. But what she did know was that waste is sinful.
Since even before the first Earth Day, cutting down on garbage became the thing to do. A lot of the first efforts were to just throw things into a trash can so that the whole city or country didn’t look like a landfill. Remember the Keep America Beautiful campaign. Recycling cans, bottles, newspapers became mainstream a little later.
I really don’t think recycling, in itself, will save the planet. The energy and effort to break down a glass bottle only to create a new bottle may not, in the end, be the optimal way to preserve resources.
Two better methods to save the planet:
- Reuse stuff
- Use less stuff
The real answer to less waste is less consumption. Simplifying and minimizing can be a good thing. Produce less, buy less, use less. Yet this translates into fewer jobs and a flat-line economy.
How do we reconcile the drive to care about the environment and the drive to stimulate economic growth? In the scheme of the global power struggle, is it inevitable that a country loses economic power in order to become more ecological?
But I guess that the last country with the most energy sources and stuff still wins. They win right before the fall back into a simpler time. A low-tech, back-to-nature kind of time.
A world with less capacity to travel. Where medical care loses high-tech machinery and gains a higher mortality rate. Where water and food dwindles. Where the silk threads of the Web are swept away. Unless the sun begins to power our planes, and wind power can be depended on to operate medical equipment when a life depends on it, the ways of this world will be history.
An over-sentimentalized simpler time brings up a whole new set of problems.