¶ … Environmental Worldview: A Confessional of Contradictions
To assess my environmental worldview, perhaps the most effective method to deploy is to reflect on a typical day in my life, when I am living at home and when I am outside the university community — on a typical garbage day. On that day, I put out half a week’s refuse, in a plastic, non-biodegradable bag, on my curb. (The store brand of plastic bags was on sale this week at the local supermarket.) As I look down my street, I see others engaged in a similar process. One woman in a housedress drags a huge black amorphous bag of refuse, another neighbor, a tired businessman in a suit, wheels large plastic bins with lids expressly designed to keep away the teeth and claws of other species. Then, I remember it is recycling day, and I dash into the home to lug out my family’s bins of empty bottles and cans, or mixed print and newspapers.
Waste and recycling is the delicate balance most of us bring to our environmental worldview. We buy in bulk to reduce waste, but buy tiny packages of juice or chips to indulge our children or younger brothers and sisters who refuse to eat lunch unless their food is of a particular and identifiable brand and in a special kind of packaging, usually featuring a popular cartoon character.
Of course, these same children bring home pictures that depict ‘Don’t Waste’ slogans for coloring contests held by their schools on ‘Earth Day,’ to be hung on the refrigerator — and they beg to stop home at McDonald’s, and even occasionally throw a wrapper from the car, when they just can’t wait to sample the fries from the cardboard packaging before they get home, despite parental or older sibling’s entreaties to the contrary. Like all humans, even adult humans, they are not actively cruel, merely careless — it’s fun to see the paper whip away, from the speed of the car, into nowhere — someone’s yard which becomes nowhere, eventually.
We try to conserve by recycling, yet find ourselves in a disposable culture, and lack the time to compost coffee grounds — and using paper towels and diapers is time saving and more sanitary in a flu-short America, correct?
On a typical morning, I return to my room, where within the television drones on, even though I am barely watching it — something about a new movie showing, but I’ll probably go for a run in a local park after work and/or school and eschew the indoors. I take a long, hot shower, leave the water running as I brush my teeth — and cut locally grown organic peaches upon my commercially produced corn flakes.
Thus, culturally I love the outdoors and support local social and political efforts to protect and conserve the environment. I spend time and some money to make an environmental contribution, and yet save economically on some products that are neither financially nor environmentally conservative. I support development as a person and I am in search, always, of better and more lucrative job prospects that are rooted in business expansion, but on a level of conservation I wish to have some refuge from my busy life in a better, greener world, and I do my best to practice environmental stewardship.
Such conservation within reason I like to think of as development with a heart. I am unapologetically species-centric yet acknowledge that for humans to flourish, the whole ecosystem must be healthy. But to be environmentally pure, at the depths of my soul I sometimes think that every part of my day should be more preservative and conservative than it is. I can’t afford a new Prius. I can’t cook from scratch every night. I can’t afford organic, cruelty-free products for my body, table, and home in every room, every time I go to the store. Sometimes the quick pace of modern life just causes me to forget. If environmentalism were like a faith, I could make peace between my modern life and the environment by confessing my sins, or by occasionally atoning through fasting. But environmentalism is not a merely moral and personal matter, it is a collective act of a community, and if one person forgets something, one day, eventually such environmental transgressions add up in the landfills of an increasingly overburdened, toxic America.