I’ve always had a fantasy about beverage containers and how, when I would see them tossed recklessly on the streets, I would pick them up and mail them, along with a picture of what they looked like lying on the ground, to the companies who sold them to the uncaring consumers who trashed them. Since the boobs who dropped them on the ground were anonymous, though ubiquitous, the detritus of containers would be returned to the source. My purpose would be in shaming the product-makers and also overwhelming them with the mountains of containers that they have generated, pushing their noses in it. I wish. Of course, that’s a naive idea, since manufacturers seem to be shameless these days; whereas, in a previous century, “bottlers” were proud of their name stamped on a container and careful in taking measures to insure that the containers were returned to them – because, let’s face it, before branding became our national mantra, a person’s name was his word and it was something worth protecting. And, too, our society wasn’t so disposable then as it is now – with everything, not just containers.
The embarrassment I feel walking through my neighborhood and seeing trash is more than just an aesthetic disgust, it is a sense that no one has respect for anything (including themselves) and that the world is just one huge dump. It reminds me that, these days, personal convenience always overrides the global good, or even the local one. The attitude that allows it to be someone else’s problem rather than “mine” is juvenile and misguided. I am old enough to remember the television commercial from the early 1970s “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. This public-service announcement was an ecological campaign in which a Native American (Iron Eyes Cody) tears up in his soulful eyes after trash is thrown from a speeding car and lands at his feet. Obviously, I developed a conscience from this example, while other people took it as a mandate to follow suit, to crap on anything and everything. Why hasn’t anyone attempted to educate our ignorant masses in the 40 years that have intervened?
There is no place to go in this world where you don’t find evidence of human exploitation, but wouldn’t it be helpful for our national psyche and sense of self-worth to not consider every waterway and scrap of land as a toilet?
So, all of this rant was brought on by the simple act of taking a walk and seeing a group of red plastic cups clustered on a grassy strip next to the pavement. The ubiquitous red plastic cups. They have been with us for a handful of years and, yet, there are likely more of them than there are of us on the planet by now, having become an even worse scourge than bottles or cans were. These red (or blue) cups have become the party container of choice, and, it seems, no one even cares what is in the cup as long as it is alcoholic. No names, no brands, just generic grog that dulls the senses and makes everyone with a red plastic cup an imbecile. The dulled brains then feel no remorse about using and disposing of something wherever and whenever – something that stands out like a sore thumb and can be carried by the wind. It will ultimately be buried in landfills and, with a half-life equal to plutonium’s, it will never go away unless removed by someone else to someplace else. These red cups most likely will end up floating in the oceans like a tub of bobbing apples. I may yearn for the days of “branded” trash, where at least you knew its origins and whom to blame. Now the anonymity is universal and everyone is complicit, ergo guilt-free, in the general disregard and malaise – both producer and consumer. It’s a perfect pairing, really, sad to say.
The total disrespect that people have for their environment, their place, is astonishing. That old saying of “fouling one’s own nest” is what we are about, it seems – to the max. Maybe this is the thing that separates us from other animals: that we are the one creature that self-destructs by not valuing or following the laws of nature. Our placeness doesn’t appear to have meaning or weight, it is only our momentary convenience that matters. Okay, then, maybe we will get what we deserve.