Thursday, April 23, 2009

How about "Refuse"?

I have spent the last several days stuck in bed with a wicked sinus and middle ear infection which I mistook to be allergies until it was totally out of control. As a result, my plans for TV Turnoff Week were waylaid as I was desperate for ways to keep Bess occupied and quiet as I laid prone, unable to turn my head, moaning in pain (a slight exaggeration, but unfortunately not by much!).

Yesterday being Earth Day, naturally every children's program we watched was about "environmentalism" - recycling, turning off the lights when you leave a room, or turning off the water when you brush your teeth. Clearly, I don't expect any sort of examination of Deep Ecology on Nickelodeon. However, by the end of the day, if I heard one more mention of recycling I was going to FREAK OUT (my tolerance was pretty low).

Hey - recycling helps. It minimizes the need to manufacture or mine raw materials, and it keeps some trash out of landfills, particularly trash that does not readily decompose. Reduction and reuse helps too. That's all fine and well. But to teach children that they have fulfilled their obligation to the Earth, that they can call themselves "environmentalists", because they put their newspapers in the recycling bin is missing the boat. Big time.

Let's say that 100% of recyclable materials actually found their way to the recycling plant, which they don't. And let's also say, for the sake of argument, that 100% of these materials were used to make new products and packaging, which also does not happen. But even if that were true, recycling still uses energy - lots of it - which is probably not from renewable sources, and it still produces pollution - lots of it - which enters our air, land and water.

So I say, let's add a fourth R to the equation: Refuse. Refuse to believe the consumerist culture that tells you that it's okay to buy, buy, buy as long as you reuse and recycle when you can (or when it's convenient). Refuse to believe that the answer is that simple, and that the only thing required of us in order to "save the Earth" is to bring an extra can or two to the curb on garbage day. Refuse to participate, when you can, in the use of energy and resources by only taking what you need from the Earth and making the most efficient use of what you do take. Refuse to stay quiet, but instead speak up to your friends, neighbors, community members and legislators. Refuse to take anything at face value, but commit instead to thinking it through on your own. You'll be surprised at what you might find if you do.

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