Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One by one

I think that the regular garbage collectors - instead of the recycling company - might have picked up the recyclables from our little community. And I worry that my carefully collected and sorted cans, plastics, glass bottles, newspaper and cardboard have gone to the dump instead of to the sorting facility. I don't know why these two weeks of my collectables inadvertently misplaced would make me feel guilty. This, when I know that most households in our neighbourhood do not recycle - empirical evidence in the number of cardboard boxes and plastics that sit at the roadside on any given day.

Since I started separating my trash - vegetable waste to the compost heap; newspapers stacked and baled; cans in a bag separate from glass - I look at almost everything through the lens of recyclable or not. And it burns me to throw out what's not yet collected for recycling - styrofoam, batteries, old clothes too worn for someone else to wear, old telephones, electrical or electronic equipment. I collect and re-use paper bags, plastic bags, cardboard boxes.

I use cloth shopping bags and studiously refuse plastic bags, and it never ceases to amaze how many plastics accumulate in my home over a week. There seems to be no escaping the stuff. I would like to ban plastic film and aluminium foil from my kitchen but they are just too convenient. In the last century the rise and use of plastics - irresponsibly disposed - continue to fill the garbage patches that float in the world's oceans, poisoning wildlife and perhaps in insidious ways, diminishing the health and wellbeing of the human species as well.

Recycling undertaken by one person is at best quixotic - a gesture that many will steups at and think "waste of time." But I prefer, admire and staunchly defend the individuals who have at heart the best interest of the planet and who live their convictions - those who curse the fire lighters and scorchers of forests, continuing to plant trees in every growing season; those who refuse to eat fish knowing that 90% of the stocks of large species have already been eaten; those who choose to live discreetly and conservatively and to recycle and re-use knowing that the average "westerner" consumes resources that might support whole families or villages in the less developed parts of the world. Do we really believe that we deserve this good fortune?

On the daily walk now, I mark the spots where the plastic bottles are, the glass bottles, the food boxes. Let's see how many walks I can take before I need to pick up the recyclables. I am lucky to see them, I tell myself, lucky to be walking among the colours of the flowering trees, to feel the sun on my face, smell the rut of agouti in the underbrush, hear the rustle of dry branches bamboo sighing. 

My hope is that my heart is not that unique, actually an echo of every other on the planet, some coming faster some slower to the realisation that we are all meshed in the one web of life that is the earth.

I encourage you to look at this video, and meditate on its meaning:

And to pay attention to thinkers like Denis Hayes who is an environmental activist and advocate of solar power. He was the coordinator in 1970 of the first Earth Day. Here's what he had to say: "I feel more confident than ever that the power to save the planet rests with the individual consumer."

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