This Earth Day, Jeremy McKeen just wants one last consumption-heavy hurrah before we all go Green. Is that so much to ask?
WITHIN THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS OR SO, or depending on who wins the next several national elections in any of the G8 or G20 countries, we’re finally going to have World Environmental Peace. Sure we’ll still be waging war on each other over things like land and water and religion, but as humans we will hopefully and finally stop our insane daily dependence on non-sustainable products and start to clean up the last hundred-plus years of air, land, water, body, and ocean pollution. Everything that will be made will be renewable or biodegradable and non-harmful to the next seven generations of Earthlings. When that day comes we’ll all be driving air-and-sun-powered cars and living off of wind-and-solar grids while balancing near-carbon-free diets for our bodies and businesses. The air will be clean, the water pure, and the carbon unspent.
Until then, however, I have a few last Future Clean-Earth Bachelor Party-like requests.
First, I want a sandwich wrapped in wax paper, then wrapped in plastic, taped, and then put in a large plastic bag so I can throw it all away after the roughly thirteen minutes it takes to eat it. I also want a separate bag of chips and a tiny plastic cup of yogurt with a plastic spoon, so I can then throw it all away (along with a waxed-paper cup that can’t be sorted, topped with a plastic lid and straw which I will not recycle).
I just want to shove all my garbage in that beautiful plastic bag and throw it away before I leave the sandwich shop. What am I, a garbage sorter? I’m on my lunch break. Don’t bother me with Earthy requests. Give me a damn plastic bag: I need something to put my garbage in before I put my garbage in a trash bag.
I want my trash to live forever. I want my refuse to be compacted, dumped in a hole, compacted some more, covered, siphoned off, and hidden in some field in Pennsylvania or New York or China. This throwaway trash will never be seen again until some great sinkhole opens the terrain like the great hell-mouth we’ve been expecting all these years since we invented items that will literally exist for eons after our own bones will meld with the other worm-food and soil.
And no matter the distance from work to the sandwich shop franchise, we’re driving. Air-conditioning on. I call shotgun.
At work I want to make sure that no copier or computer or its monitor is turned off, ever. Lights too. If the PCs are shut down, I want to see that little ethernet light blinking all night long to remind me that our Terminator and Matrix nightmares are soon coming true. That server room? It never sleeps. The internets never sleep.
If it’s yellow, flush it down. If it’s brown, flush it down. If I sort of blow my nose and throw the tissue in a clean bowl of water, flush that down. A waterless future awaits us, where hand dryers like rocket-packs line every restroom wall. We must waste now. There’s no time to mellow.
At home I want to change my kid’s diaper using extra wipes and, if there’s a big ol’ dookie-doo blow-out, I’ll need an extra diaper for the run off or the extra wipes. Sometimes it’s a two-diaper deal, and I’m just not going to apologize about that.
And forget infrequent and shorter showers. I’m taking my time, at least twice a day. Prepare the towels now.
And I don’t just want hand sanitizer from a plastic bottle when I’m done using the toilet. I want a few minutes of warm, soapy, clean water to wash my hands after I flush three to five gallons of clean water down the toilet for essentially forty ounces or so of urine. If it’s yellow, flush it down. If it’s brown, flush it down. If I sort of blow my nose and throw the tissue in a clean bowl of water, flush that down. A waterless future awaits us, where hand dryers like rocket-packs line every restroom wall. We must waste now. There’s no time to mellow.
Before plastic bags are prohibited from every market and town in the First-through-Third Worlds, I want a plastic bag party. I want plastic bags filled with plastic bags in a ball-pit scenario, where we can bounce and swim around in fluffy use-once pillows; I want to chase plastic bags floating like jelly fish in pools and the ocean; I want a whole generation videotaping plastic bags as they float around the atmosphere, capturing the most beautiful things they’ve ever seen. I want to double bag my factory farmed meat and grill it up for a whole block party full of people dressed in plastic-bag inspired outfits; I want to make a huge net of rope made from plastic bags and do ropes courses and trust falls near the local supermarkets.
Before the poor species of plastic bag is extinct and replaced with faded Trader Joe’s and Market Basket cloth carriers, we need to have one last hurrah.
The same goes for plastic bottles – before we ban them all (as we well should), I want to see buildings and forts made of them, and boats, and couches, and anything that will take these abominations away from the shores and gyres and eyesight of every highway.
And when I die, make sure my corpse doesn’t degrade as nature intended, but sits in a box, full of chemicals that will eventually steep into the ground after the coffin somehow disintegrates.
Somehow, in the last fifty years, society agreed that we were all too good for aluminum, glass, and paper, which would have sustained us. But no – the allure of plastic has trapped us all, and I want to dive and swim, Scrooge McDuck style, in a sea of plastic bottles, one last time. I want to see every plastic bottle filled with water or sand or dirt and either used, saved, recycled, or planted for some future use. We need a whole week where everyone only buys up every plastic bottle full of whatever and uses it until the coating wears thin and it reduces itself. Or we could all fill our cars full of bottled water, head to California, and make a deposit for their upcoming water-less years.
Our great-great-grandchildren will have museums to teach them what pollution looked like: the Hall of Plastics, the Interactive Discarded Tire Mountain and Wildlife Covered-in-Oil Preserve, the Petrochemical Rainbow Pond Review, the Post-Nuke Reactor Village Frozen in Time. There will be guided tours of the former North Pacific Garbage Patch as well as the other spinning Gyres, where plastic once out-populated plankton 1,000 to 1 part-per-milliliter of ocean water. There will be an ongoing musical theatre performance centered around K-12 children throwing away plastic utensils and styrofoam plates twice a day and where it got us in the 20th century.
In this utopian, “greener” Earth of tomorrow we will all enjoy Zero Waste Homes, where composting isn’t something your weird suburban friends do; we won’t all be eating meat at every meal, either – that should be a given. On that glorious day all of our cities will be run by wind, solar, water, or other. “Other” is currently being tested in labs worldwide.
But before the elliptical-bike-powered-gyms and walkway-powered-schools replace our nonrenewable resources, and self-sustaining hydroponic farms save communities and cities worldwide, I just need to throw a cigarette butt or a crushed soda can on the ground one more time. No, wait. The can will be recycled? Damn it. Then just the butt. And make it a non-recyclable plastic-coated paper coffee cup. Yes, that’s it. I want to waste one more time.
Until that salubrious day, give me a soon-to-be-obsolete SUV, laptop, and cell phone, and non-locally sourced garden toppings on my GMO-heavily processed double-bacon quarter pounder with cheese. And make sure my fair share of petrochemicals gets into the ground and water. Please and thank you.
And when I die, make sure my corpse doesn’t degrade as nature intended, but sits in a box, full of chemicals that will eventually steep into the ground after the coffin somehow disintegrates, thumbing its nose at the sentiment of the large caravan of kings and peasants of the underworld in William Cullen Bryant’s poem “Thanatopsis.” Our coffins are just one last take-out container to be sealed shut, locking in as much freshness as possible until Judgment Day, which will be 5,000+ years from now when our water bottles and diapers finally start to disappear from the soil and oceans. John Muir, Thoreau, and Rachel Carson can all turn in their graves until then.
Finally, get me on another planet or planetoid to leave some garbage. A golf ball, a flag, some ship parts from Interstellar. Someone will clean it up, or not. We can always rerun this article in fifty years. I won’t mind.
Until then, a Happy Earth Day, and a hopeful future to you all. Enjoy the sunset, and clean up after yourselves.
Photo: Haceme un 14