Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts on the Environment

“Think about this: we are the only species on this planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation."
Excerpt from Paul Hawken's commencement address to the graduates of University of Portland on May 3rd 2009.

I read this last week on Larkin's blog (read the rest here) and it floored me. Brilliantly worded, captivating, insightful, inspiring, terrifying... please take the time to read it. Twice.

It's hard for me to balance the desire to cut back on resources and take care of the earth when i'm living in one of the most overpopulated cities on the planet. I see waste and decay everywhere. Mountains of garbage lying in unused parts of the barren country-side; trash discarded mere meters from an available garbage can; rotting garbage festering in an alleyway.

I remember when hiking in Cuandixia, i found a plastic shopping bag. I tied it to my belt and as we walked along the path i stopped to pick up discarded trash and bottles along the way. My dad taught me that trick. Anytime we were on a nature walk (not so much "hiking" in Chicago) he came prepared with a few bags and usually filled them both. Side note: my dad is awesome. Counterpoint: he's also a wonderful environmentalist. Anyway, i filled this bag within 10 minutes and soon it was overflowing.

It saddened me to know that even if i picked up everything, it wouldn't stop the next hikers from discarding their trash whenever it was no longer useful to them. It didn't just sadden me, but it genuinely made me angry. I want to grab these Chinese day-trippers and shake them, screaming: "Why don't you respect your beautiful nature? Don't you love your country? How can you be so selfish?". And yes, they are the Chinese ones.

It's bad in China, but it's not perfect in the US either. Living in the Boulder bubble, it's easy to feel good about yourself. It's clean and people pick up after themselves. It's a wonderful place to live. But there are vast stretches of cities, STATES even where this is not the norm. Nobody is perfect, and everyone has to do their part. Let's start with the easy things.

Step one: start putting your trash in proper receptacles. That's it. Please?


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