Scatological? Maybe.

Thanks to all those who responded last time. I sometimes wonder if I’m just sending e-mails out to a lot of inboxes, most of which have blocks on messages either from me personally, or anything multiply addressed and then posting to an unwatched blog. I know about checking blog stats, but never seem to have time or motivation to do that. Of course, the relatively good response to the last e-mail version may have been simply due to the relevance of a discussion as morbid as one’s plans for the immediate aftermath of one’s own death.

On the chance that morbidity was the key to the increased response, let’s try something even weirder this time: say something scatological. I’ve been thinking a lot about one of our tried and true means of dealing with items that are, in small amounts, no more than obnoxious, but, in overabundance, poisons. The Meadow house, my new office/meeting place/midweek residence, is right behind Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe (California, USA). Prior to being here I often walked my dog, Sunny, in the woods below Echo summit and, since I virtually always avoid trails, rarely felt compelled to pick up after her.

My rationale was that it would be many years before her leavings would reach the Lake, presumably after having been digested by first microbes and then plants. Such reasoning is probably as much rationalization as anything, but it did that job well, and I would usually only pick up after her if she’d gotten the urge in an inconvenient (to other walkers, for example) spot. When the doo-doo is within a half-mile of clear blue water, though, the weakness of the argument is hard to ignore, so I always pick up after her on walks from this new locale.

I’ve been disappointed by the obvious fact that a large majority of dog owners hereabouts don’t follow the same protocol. City folk are much better about this. Laws and their enforcement are doubtlessly a big factor in that, but it also fits nicely with our subconscious and almost universal belief that inconvenience to human beings is the paramount concern in all things, and few things inconvenience us so instantly as stepping in dog s-word. Anyway, by garbage day I always have a nice collection of honey sacks for the unfortunate STR (South Tahoe Refuse Company) employees who always (touch wood) take it away to be hauled out of the Basin, placed in a pile somewhere a long way away and, presumably, buried under a layer of dirt to be left to decay.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Well, not quite. That whole process has been stuck in my brain lately. Strangely, what started me thinking about it was an article I read the other day about industry’s handling of carbon dioxide waste. It seems one of the “solutions” to the problem of the overabundance of green house gases is digging deep wells and pumping CO2 into the ground. Some companies have already buried millions of tons of the stuff in limestones, I think it was. “Out of sight,” as it were.

The flaw I see in then putting such gases out of mind is the same I see in putting Sunny’s rather prodigious contributions to the Tahoe environment out of mind. She’s big, you know. About 110 pounds, and not fat. For one thing, putting her (and, for that matter, my) waste in someone else’s domain doesn’t make it go away. It strikes me as hypocritical to send our wastes out to Alpine (or is it Douglas?) County. It is only somewhat mitigating that “we have the Lake” to worry about. The article I read didn’t address the question of whether the CO2 was expected to decay into something else before leaching out, concentrating instead only on whether it would reappear soon. But I assume, if decomposition happens at all, it’s a rather long-term process, and what is really happening is that this “solution,” like the solid waste problem on South Shore, is simply one of shipping our problems off to someone else. In our case it’s to contemporaries in a “less desirable” locale. In the Carbon Dioxide case it’s to future generations. This is, essentially, how people deal with these kinds of problems all around the world. The rich and powerful ship their problems off to those less so.

One of the things we have to do as environmentalists, I think, is move past the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Putting our shit in bigger and bigger piles in “remote” locations in no way addresses the problems that come from our incessantly increasing the amount of shit we’re producing. Collecting the droppings together may give short-term relief, but it never solves the essential problem. Inevitably, so long as our population and, even worse, our consumption, keeps growing out of control, the piles will keep moving closer and closer, while they only continue to get bigger and bigger.

Environmentalism needs to move past the perspective of looking out our living room window and into the perspective of looking down on Gaia, the Lifeforce of Mother Earth, from outer space. Tahoe counts, for sure, so I’ll keep filling my plastic bags. But it’s Gaia that counts so much more. Our solutions, all of them, need to take that bigger concern into account.

If you’d like to join us at CS3rd in an effort to gain this larger perspective, e-mail me at gwdrake@intheserviceofgaia.com (Or use this web site’s links). It’s also time to plan for the Earthwise Commute-athon this spring (week of May 14th). If you’d like to organize this Earth-friendly fundraiser for your organization, I’d be happy to walk you through the activity.

Love,

George

P.S.:

I honor in you the place in which the entire universe dwells:

that place which is of love and light, of truth and peace.

When you are in that place in you,

and I am in that place in me, we are one.

Namaste.

 

 

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3 Responses to Scatological? Maybe.

  1. George says:

    Dear Readers: The following were responses to this blog entry which came directly to my e-mail address. I’m posting for anyone who wants to read their full content (aluded to in later e-mails/blog entries):

    from Scott:

    Hi George, Thanks for the e-mails and helpful reminders and words of wisdom thrown in the mix. Maybe helpful insight to the plight of the whole dog droppings thing. Its is very thoughtful to do the right thing for the lake and for your fellow human beings to pick up after your dog, but it also might be better for the environment to empty the bag of its contents in the toilet, then disguard the plastic bag in the trash. When the bag and its contents gets put in the trash and sent to wherever it goes, the contents of the bags will most likely sit until the bag decomposes. Just something to think about.

    Thanks

    Scott

    from Jim:

    Ok, George. Have you ever been the Keys Marina? If you have, you’ll
    know that boat docks at Tahoe are frequently 3 inches deep in goose
    poop. You’re worried about being within half a mile with your dog?
    This stuff is 6 inches away. And the marina and boat owners’ solution
    is to sweep / shovel / hose the stuff directly into the marina. (Don’t
    get me wrong here, I blame the geese, not the humans.)

    So unless you’re ready to declare open season on geese (my personal
    favorite), worrying about a bit of dog poo seems a bit pointless.
    Besides, no one picks up the coyote, bear, raccoon or squirrel poo.

    As it evidently annoys you, have you ever considered picking up your dog
    poo and flushing it down the toilet? Not only would you no longer have
    to worry about offending your local refuse worker, or polluting some
    other county, your dog, as you do, would now be fertilizing hay fields
    in Gardnerville.

    However, I must agree with your assessment that hiding our shit in
    bigger and bigger piles makes no sense at all, though I see no realistic
    solution short of killing off about 3 billion people. I bemoan the
    demise of the Zero Population Growth movement. I think we should close
    our borders not out of hatred of foreigners, but out of a desire to
    decrease the number of people our country, and thereby reduce pollution
    and resource waste. And I root for mother nature’s ever increasing
    efforts to get the job done via AIDS, Ebola, Bird Flu, etc. She will
    win eventually, you know.

    Childless and proud of it…

    Jim

  2. George says:

    The following is a response to the last e-mail I sent to Jim. I’m posting it here as is and will return to attempt a response at a later time, when I have it. I urge you all to do the job for me by clicking on the link at the bottom of this entry and joining the conversation.

    “Steve warned me I’d have a pen pal… Oh well, here goes. To your original reply, a note that two of your comments seem to be in opposition.
    >We often give up because we see our contributions as insignificant… We have to do what we can, where we can, when we can.
    “Followed by:
    >Two writers suggested that I take an additional step of separating the plastic from the poop and flushing the latter. At first I thought this a very good idea… but on further thought and actual contemplation of what was involved, I decided this to be a step I’d not advocate…
    “You rationalize that the act would be “odious” and “repugnant”, and that merely suggesting it would damage your credibility, and cause other viable suggestions to be dismissed as the ranting of a crazed extremist lunatic. That may very well be true, but I don’t understand where you choose to draw the line. Saving the planet won’t be pretty. Some of the required actions will be repugnant.
    “The repugnant actions still need to be advocated. You could preface them with the fact that they’re repugnant, and even suggest that not all readers may not choose to participate in them. Set up sort of a sliding scale of involvement if you will. Certain items will be simple and easy and anyone can and will do them. Others will be offensive and challenging, and only a few will participate, but they will still have been offered as things you can do if you’re serious.
    “On to the geese.
    “No, I don’t really blame them for being geese, or pooping. My only problem with them is that they’re protected as migratory birds, but they don’t migrate. Therefore they don’t deserve protection. If they were to lose that protection, they could be hunted, and would then re-gain a natural fear of the predator and be less likely to so closely and densely populate space occupied by us. There would still be many meadows and miles of shoreline for them to occupy, but they would then poop on the ground, where it might have some chance of decomposing before entering the lake, instead of pooping on the boat docks where it will be (due to lazy man’s objection to the previously noted repugnant tasks) sweep it directly into the water. Who knows, maybe they actually taste good and I can spare a turkey this year.

    . . .

    “Population growth is clearly a bigger problem in other parts of the world, notably China (at least they say they’re trying) and India (which is doing nothing as far as I know). However, I can’t think of any reason not to clean our own house first, and set some limits on US population. No, the real problem is not immigration (other than the fact certain cultures tend to re-populate more prolifically than others – that’s not racist, it’s reality) but rather excessive childbirth. Limiting immigration won’t solve the problem, but it’s somewhere to start. You can’t emigrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Switzerland at will, so why are our doors so wide open to all comers?
    “As before, still enjoying the banter. Have a good day. “

  3. george says:

    I posted Jim’s comments earlier, hoping for participation from readers. I’ve seen none yet, so here’s my response to Jim, unassisted by the theoretical “reader input.”

    On 2/14/07, “Jim” wrote:
    To your original reply, a note that two of your comments seem to be in opposition.

    >We often give up because we see our contributions as insignificant… We have to do what we can, where we can, when we can.

    Followed by:

    >Two writers suggested that I take an additional step of separating the plastic from the poop and flushing the latter. At first I thought this a very good idea… but on further thought and actual contemplation of what was involved, I decided this to be a step I’d not advocate…
    You rationalize that the act would be “odious” and “repugnant”, and that merely suggesting it would damage your credibility, and cause other viable suggestions to be dismissed as the ranting of a crazed extremist lunatic. That may very well be true, but I don’t understand where you choose to draw the line. Saving the planet won’t be pretty. Some of the required actions will be repugnant.
    The repugnant actions still need to be advocated.
    **My response:
    No, not really. This is not about my feeling I’m, personally, being the best example of a human being possible: about me having no more impact on the ecology than the average hominid did prior to the invention of agriculture. It’s not even about me advocating that everyone be like that prehistoric primate. For one thing, I don’t. I’m not an advocate of whistling in the wind. You’re right about the “ugliness of saving the planet.” But you’re wrong if you think I’m going to be able to do it. My whole point is that no one is going to be able to do it. The best we’ll ever be able to do is delay the loss of the planet long enough to get off.

    It’s going to get ugly, indeed, before we do that, if we succeed at all. Genocide and AIDS and who knows what are going to happen in the meantime, on scales currently not even imagined, for sure. That’s the ugliness I’m worried about. I haven’t time or interest in fighting the obvious little debates about whether being motivated to pick up dogshit by the fear someone might step in it is foolish when the real question is whether it turns the lake green (I can clean my shoes, I can’t restore a lake to blue) or, even more, what the overall environmental impacts of our proliferation is.
    **
    You could preface them with the fact that they’re repugnant, and even suggest that not all readers may not choose to participate in them. Set up sort of a sliding scale of involvement if you will. Certain items will be simple and easy and anyone can and will do them. Others will be offensive and challenging, and only a few will participate, but they will still have been offered as things you can do if you’re serious.

    **My Response:
    Could. Maybe even “should.” But I’m not going to. One thing we need to understand is that “can do” is often used as a trap to keep us from doing anything. The theoretical is of no interest to me. What I do is what I “can do.” This is about moving forward. Picking at myself is not productive. Someone else picking at me is definitely not productive. There are plenty of motes in all our eyes. No point going there.
    **

    On to the geese.
    No, I don’t really blame them for being geese, or pooping. My only problem with them is that they’re protected as migratory birds, but they don’t migrate. Therefore they don’t deserve protection. If they were to lose that protection, they could be hunted, and would then re-gain a natural fear of the predator and be less likely to so closely and densely populate space occupied by us. There would still be many meadows and miles of shoreline for them to occupy, but they would then poop on the ground, where it might have
    some chance of decomposing before entering the lake, instead of pooping on the boat docks where it will be (due to lazy man’s objection to the previously noted repugnant tasks) sweep it directly into the water. Who knows, maybe they actually taste good and I can spare a turkey this year.
    . . .

    **My Response:
    How interesting the human brain is. “Deserve” is an fascinating choice of word. “Natural fear” certainly didn’t save the passenger pigeon or the dodo. “Occupied by us” is a pregnant phrase. Does “would still be” imply “will always be?” And then there’s that word “can” again.
    **

    Population growth is clearly a bigger problem in other parts of the world, notably China (at least they say they’re trying) and India (which is doing nothing as far as I know). However, I can’t think of any reason not to clean our own house first, and set some limits on US population. No, the real problem is not immigration (other than the fact certain cultures tend to re-populate more prolifically than others – that’s not racist, it’s reality) but rather excessive childbirth. Limiting immigration won’t solve the problem, but it’s somewhere to start. You can’t emigrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Switzerland at will, so why are our doors so wide open to all comers?

    **My response:
    I may not have made the point carefully enough earlier–or maybe even at all. Population growth in Homo sapiens is a driving force behind our planet’s crisis, for sure, and it must be reversed if we are to make any progress at all. But the real problem is the major consequence of population growth which, unfortunately, can also arise in other ways: consumption. By that measure, the United States is not a place that has “no reason not to clean” its own nest. It is the primary example of the problem, population growth or not.

    Frittering around with immigration is not addressing this problem at all. It is not a “start.” It’s simply unrelated. Far more relevant is the world’s current main economic model, capitalism. That’s a problem that makes the issue of immigration look trivial.
    **

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