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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
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.