Respect for the small.
November 4, 2017 § 2 Comments
A single paper clip.
A sheet of paper, one side clean.
The heel of a loaf of bread.
A handful of rubber bands.
What are they worth?
They’re not worth the trouble of storing them until needed.
Not worth the effort or ingenuity required to put them to use right now.
So, without thought, we default to the easiest solution. We toss them in the trash.
This cavalier treatment of the small-but-useful object is not a constant when it comes to human behavior, but it has held steady for quite a while in this period of prolonged bounty.
Here is an adage that expressed our relationship with small but useful objects during the Great Depression:
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
If there were a saying that summed up our treatment of the objects in our lives today, it would surely end with, “throw it out.”
We human beings respond remarkably well to any crisis that is breathing on our necks. We adapt fast.
If economic hard times come again we will return to the cautious use of resources. We will once again pay attention to things we now toss away.
It is the slow-moving, nebulous threats we fail to respond to: climate change, wildlife extinctions, pollution, deforestation, the degradation of every natural landscape.
That slow-moving, in-coming disaster is a math equation that is continuously shifting, but sometime soon it will look like this:
earth’s resources<our needs and desires.
This disaster is coming, but without a threat as immediate as the record unemployment and wide-spread hunger of the Depression we have to find another lever to cause us to want less, use less, and use what we have at hand.
For me that lever is respect. It begins with noticing those small objects and recognizing their value, acknowledging our dependence on them and using them more mindfully. Our profligate, careless behavior is drawing down a bank account that has to support not only generations of our kind, but a natural world abuzz with life.
To “throw away” is often an act of disrespect. We throw away what we value too little to use up, wear out, make do or—and this is the option kindest to this poor beat-up planet—do without.
Here is a much funnier take on the “stuff” that doesn’t get thrown way thanks to George Carlin.