February 23, 2014 § 3 Comments
It’s a milk crate found by the side of the road. Sturdy and useful, you can carry books in it, or pretty much anything that isn’t liquid or small enough to fall through the holes.
I wasn’t looking for a milk crate when I set out on my walk, but I wasn’t surprised to find it.
Something useful is always being dumped at the curb, where, if no one grabs it, it will be added to a landfill, becoming part of a lingering monument to our collective wastefulness.
As you can tell from the preceding paragraphs, I have more on my mind than grabbing one milk crate out of the stream of throw-aways, so now that I’m standing on it, let me elaborate.
To me throwing useful things out is sinful. Yup, I chose that word carefully. It is disrespectful and ungrateful, and I think THOU SHALT NOT WASTE was the tablet Moses accidentally dropped carrying the commandments down from the mountain–or maybe he walked it to the curb figuring that ten was all the average sinner could keep track of.
I end up using a lot of things that others discard. The sandals (so worn they embarrass my daughter) socks and pants are all hand-me-downs. Reused clothing (in addition to mortifying your children) is broken in and comfortable.
I’m conscious of what a small act of conservation this is. Replace one pair of sandals with a new pair, hey, no big deal, but multiply a new pair of sandals times everything we collectively acquire and it adds up. The planet cannot handle the ceaseless acts of consumption we commit almost without thought.
If the picture of global consumption is too big to contemplate look instead at your local landscape. (Something of a scale that comfortably falls somewhere between one pair of sandals and the entire planet).
Here, in Tallahassee, parcels of undeveloped land are disappearing under a boom in housing units for university students, but we’re not talking about two coeds sharing a room with a communal bathroom down the hall.
The signs for these complexes say “Why Wait for Luxury?” Can we really afford the luxury of luxury—and what does luxury at nineteen grow into over time, given the fact we measure success by how much wealth and luxury increase with age?
Having checked out what is happening in your home town, take a look at the even more local landscape of your closet. Do you need all that stuff, and if you got rid of it would you toss it in the trash and promptly replace it with more?
Stuff is good. Stuff is nice, but we are treating a closed system as if it could be endlessly resupplied by some off-location warehouse. Planet earth is not Home Depot.
Earth will survive us, but as a species we’re in trouble folks. We are consuming and degrading resources that have to be enough, not just for future human generations but for all the living things that make up the complex web of life on earth.
The sad thing is, the problems we face are as big and daunting as they appear and they cannot be solved by small individual acts, and the policy makers, whose job it is to make the tough, necessary decisions lack courage or vision or both.
Which leaves you and me and our habits and choices in a society in which everything mitigates against restraint. We are appealed to constantly to acquire more.
Does anyone but me resent being called a consumer? I prefer poet. Thinker. Friend—almost any other label. But we are consumers, as is anything that lives, breathes, grows and metabolizes.
The difference between us and nonhuman consumers is that our consumption is not need-based but want-based.
If only we could consume like poets who build the most beautiful literary works with a minimum of materials. Or like thinkers, acting deliberately, consciously. Or like friends.
This blog is a soapbox too, and I thank you for reading it.
Okay, I’m climbing down now. For the next two Sundays Slowdance will take a rest. I have a deadline on a book that has to be turned in.
Don’t worry, I plan to finish the book using nothing but recycled words–I cleave to that eleventh commandment as closely as I can.