Recently, Noel, Daniel and I went on a trip. It was during this trip that I recognized a tragic generation gap and the short-sightedness of an uneducated (on environmental issues) population (or is it an uncaring population? I'd prefer to think of it as uneducated). (My apologies to the people who made the statements herein - I'm using this example to try and make a point, not to berate you).
At a dinner, where there were several people (not to be named, because I don't want anyone to be pissed off or embarrassed), let's just say that at least one older member was justifying the use of disposable water bottles. Granted, the available tap water is not drinkable - smells like sulphur - so there is a need for an alternative. "I do have a water cooler with larger, refillable bottles, but you're not supposed to refill the small plastic ones because they let off chemicals" ... at which point I called bullshit. If you aren't supposed to re-use a plastic bottle for fear of chemicals getting into the liquid, what the hell are you doing drinking from it in the first place? The original water has been in there a hell of a lot longer than the re-fill water would be, and was the first liquid in there, so would have far more chemicals. If you're drinking from a plastic bottle, you're drinking the plastic, folks. That's the way it is. Stainless steel is much less toxic. "I bought a metal bottle, but I don't like the top on it, and I can't find another one anywhere". The person who made this comment does not have a lot of financial resources, and perhaps metal bottles AREN'T available in the stores (s)he goes to, but where I shop (Safeway, for instance), these bottles are always available. I do have a hard time finding stainless steel bottles that aren't made in China, however. (I see a gift opportunity here).
Another comment was made about toothbrushes (not telling who said this one, either). "Well, what else can you get except a plastic toothbrush?". Answer: Bamboo. http://environmentaltoothbrush.com.au/ You might end up paying a little more for your brushes - not a whole lot. They end up being about $4 each, Canadian, but you might change toothbrushes more frequently. Frankly, to me it's worth it. I'd rather go to one less movie a year and use biodegradable toothbrushes. (maybe I'll put together a gift basket - with lots of environmental options - like re-usable bags that someone didn't want to use, either).
And in comment to my glass straw, I got the response - "Yeah, and then I could see someone getting hurt when they break one". A reasonable statement if you haven't seen one. They are very thick and don't easily break. They are also warrantied for life, so if it breaks you can return it for repair or replacement. http://glassdharma.com/ - Daniel LOVES drinking from his. I still forget to ask for no straw most of the time, but I'm working on it.
But one of the comments made that night really disturbed me. A news item came on showing a girl who had gone to Midway Island to see the damage that plastics are doing to the wildlife there. And someone said: "But how do OUR plastics get to Midway Island?" Okay, guys, I'm not saying that we should stop using plastics because they will somehow get to Midway Island and kill baby albatrosses! Midway Island is the symptom of a world-wide cancer caused by plastics. Let me be very clear that when I told this person that Midway Island was a symptom, said person agreed and backed down. The comment was made that we do have landfills - as if landfills were the final solution, and as long as we can get the trash into the landfill, then the problem is taken care of. But again, the person agreed that this was a short-term and short-sighted solution.
But how can we make any progress to help our environment when people use these arguments to justify their non-environmental actions? I can only think that such comments are made to help them feel less guilty about what they do themselves.
Just today, I saw the trailer for a new movie by Chris Jordan, the fellow who's been leading the groups going to Midway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GudEuDTrSLU Take a look. I hope I can see it someday. Or maybe it would be too depressing. But let's face it. These things are kinda depressing. And we need to do something about it.
Let me be clear. I don't love people who say these things any less. But it is a reflection of the ignorance (or apathy, but I really am hoping for ignorance) that is out there. These comments reflect the views of a large group. And it makes me sad. And I wonder if it is somewhat generational (although I don't think so, because people my age can be just as ignorant). Those people who grew up in the convenience age - do they feel guilty? Are they justifying their actions because they don't want to be inconvenienced? I'm not sure, but I know I don't want to live that way. I don't want to feel responsible for even the smallest part of our world dying. Although I am. I am quite responsible. I take planes, I drive a car, and I allow some plastics into my life. But I'm trying.
As an aside, does anyone who lives near me want some of the environmental toothbrushes or glass straws? I'd be happy to put in a bulk order and save on shipping.