Opinion – Trashy Consumerism

Well, the Superbowl was last night. I think I watched about a quarter of the game. I have never been a big fan of American football. The most exciting parts for me is watching the kickers. The rest.  Meh. Kind of glad that it is over now. That means that I will not have to listen to everyone blather on about this “tactical point” in strategy or that “strategic point” in how to handle the next play. Plus, in less than two weeks, Major League Baseball begins Spring Training (!!!!), and that is a sport I am truly fanatical over.

Yesterday, however, we got a reminder that it is still winter – at least down here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. We had some sleet for a short period of time, which left a minor coating of ice on the ground. It will all be gone by this afternoon, provided the weather folks have got the forecast right. However, the temps will be low enough that I will need to drag my big coat out of the closet when I go to class tonight. Read on the news yesterday that the groundhog up in Pennsylvania saw his shadow and bolted back into his home. The “prediction” of more winter. Now, everyone seems to be grumbling about the groundhog’s prediction – and blaming him (even jokingly) for the extended winter forecast. I do not need to blame the groundhog. In fact, I do not need to blame anyone. This is a cycle of Nature. Which takes me to where I am thinking this morning.

Just a few years back, I remember the winter months starting somewhere around the end of October. The temperature would drop considerably, and we would typically have a light dusting of snow in mid-to-late December here in Texas. After that, the temperature would hover somewhere between 30F and 40F until mid March. But these last few years, we seem to have had yo-yo weather here. For instance, last night, our temperatures dipped into the teens, and the day before, we had been in the 60s. Now, I consider myself to be a casual observer of the weather, but I seem to recall a lot of patterns like this in the last few years. And I can only conclude that the weather cycles on this planet are trying to adjust…and I can only further conclude that it is us – human beings – that is the cause of the adjustment. Yes, for those of you that are allergic to former Vice President Al Gore – I am talking Global Warming here.

I am not writing this to debate the entire perspective of Global Warming. In fact, if I receive a response from someone wanting to debate the issue – I am quite likely to let the comment stand, and flat out ignore it. You – the reader – can make up your own mind about the causes of Global Warming or even if it exists. To be completely frank, I am not even sure that Global Warming is the correct term to utilize for what I believe. But I do believe that the wide variances in weather patterns, the occurrences of stronger, more violent weather conditions….these are all parts of the adjustments that have to be made to achieve balance. Furthermore, I am not saying that mankind’s manner of polluting the environment, over-use of the natural resources, and inability/lack-of-desire to even care about the effects of those actions, are the cause of the current change in weather patterns. I do believe that the changes we see would have happened naturally, just not at the rate of speed that we currently are experiencing. I do not have scientific facts to back up what I am saying here – only my own intuition. So, if you are looking to use cherry-picked “scientific” facts to blow holes in my theory – you probably could easily do so. Just as I could do the same thing with cherry-picked “scientific” data to prove that the purple-striped, and pink-polka-dotted hippopotamus will be making a comeback in the near future.

My point is not that we need to make drastic changes to help combat the environmental damage that has been done. The damage is done, and an extreme change in behavior may only cause more drastic changes. Nor am I saying that we need to stay the course and continue with our current behaviors. Again, I am no scientist here – I am just a Pagan living my daily life the best way that I can. Much like pendulum will swing wildly in a large arch in one direction when pushed, the reaction – the return arch of the swing, will also be large, just nearly as much. If we caught the pendulum in the high-point of its arch, and flung it back the other direction – the arch would be just as great, and have another reaction in the opposite direction. The goal was not to make the pendulum vacillate wildly in action/reaction to our second action – taken to combat the action/reaction of our first action. The goal was to slow the rate of action/reaction from the first action. (Aside – I know that may not make too much sense…but its the best I can do with my attempt to communicate this here, so hopefully, you are tracking this line of thought) Thus, I think an immediate and drastic action to slow the reaction to our initial action may cause a secondary – and potentially more damaging – reaction. In other words, I think we need to make slower, more pronounced changes singular changes to our behaviors.

For instance, in our modern age of technology, our modern age of production – I refuse to believe that we cannot package products in more effective ways to reduce the amount of waste that we create. For instance, we create tons of packaging that is not recyclable – styrofoam. We have drinking cups made from it at the fast food joints. We have containers for food in those same locations, that are made from it. Nearly every item I have ever purchased from an online retail location has come with those styrofoam packing peanuts inside the box to protect the item from damage. Well, everywhere except Amazon, which uses an air-filled plastic pillow, which can be recycled. We scream and moan about these companies following practices that discriminate against LGBT couples, or whether they are using GMO foods in their product. Yet, I have never heard a single complaint from anyone over the wasteful way that these same companies package their products. And just to take it a step further, inside the locations of these companies, I have rarely seen a recycling bin. Typically, there is only a trash bin located there, where EVERYTHING is placed. And I have not even started to contemplate the idea of what these companies do with unsold food product at the end of the day – which should, in my not-so-humble opinion – be donated to a local homeless shelter to help feed the people located there. Yes, its not the greatest food in the world, but something is far better than nothing for people who have nothing.

Full Trash CanWe – and I mean the royal “we” here – we are such a wasteful society. We over-indulge on nearly everything that we do. Its a part of our consumer-driven mentality. We get money, we must spend it. We are taught that habit when we are young – by our parents, by the advertising we see on the television, by our peer pressure to have the latest, greatest gadget. We generate so much waste – waste that can be recycled and repurposed, which is sent to a landfill instead. The landfill in the city/suburb located directly south of me, is taller than the five-story apartment complex near it. The landfill for my county is nearly four stories in height. I shudder to think how much of that is food that has been thrown away. Food that could have been repurposed as compost for assisting in growing more food, or that could have fed the needy in their time of need.

This is a big problem – our wasteful usage as a consumer-driven society. And one that I believe should be addressed by the companies out there – as well as the government. I do not know where your heart is in all of this, but I want to leave a sustainable planet for the future. I recycle. I try my very best not to waste food. But I am just one guy. What about you? They say a journey starts with a single step…how about a revolution in the way we think, the way we consume, the way we live on this planet??

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