Thursday, September 11, 2008

Even Optimists Can Be Presented With An Undeniable Vision of Impending Doom

One of my favorite short stories is "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J.D. Salinger--the easiest way to grab a copy is in a collection titled "Nine Stories" and I highly recommend it. It's not a spoiler in any way to say that one of the big themes is a deeply disturbed character (Seymour Glass) who is seeking refuge in part in the innocence of children (but not in a creepy way, I promise). To make a short story long, he finds out it's not as much of a refuge as he thought it was. Even though I've always loved the story--I've never quite believed it. I get misty-eyed when I hear the song "you are the new day" (especially when coupled with a public television ad and b-roll of Sesame Street and children playing). I tend to think the best about people and about future events, but now I can see why Salinger has cut himself off from the world. For me it's not the lack of childhood innocence. I’m not ready to give that up yet. For me, it’s the train wreck that children are walking into.

Last weekend I cleaned out the garage, which included three different items for the dump: A computer (desktop & monitor), some flooring tiles, and some scrap metal (an old vent for a swamp cooler we had removed). I knew the computer and monitor had to go there for proper disposal, I knew the metal could be recycled, and I was hoping they could recycle the tile too. We also had a bunch of stuff for DI (the local "goodwill")--which happened to be my first stop. I'm unloading there and I pull out and set aside the scrap metal to get at some other stuff, and one of the helpful workers decides he's going to do me a favor and throw my scrap metal in their dumpster--which also happened to be full of cardboard. This is my first sign of our impending doom, a guy trying to do me a solid by sending my recyclable waste off to the landfill. After rescuing my scrap metal out of the dumpster along with other recyclables I decide that individuals can still make a difference--and got pretty jazzed about taking so much to the dump, none of which is actually going into the landfill. As a further boost, the woman at the scales says I can toss my flooring tiles in with the concrete, so I guessed right and they can be recycled too (side note: Jen wanted to try gluing them down again--so not such a great thing after all).

Still, I'm on a high note. Until about 12:30am. We live across from a park that has a dumpster right next to it. I wake up to someone tossing in a truckload of something or other. The next morning I take a peek and it's mostly construction waste--including a good bit of recyclable scrap metal, and some wood and sheet rock.

The amount of green waste we see go in that dumpster from otherwise nice, friendly, and intelligent neighbors is astonishing. What's more astonishing is that they will pick up green waste at your curb if you pay $4/month for a green waste bin. $4/month for weekly pickup! This town makes it incredibly easy to recycle everything from leaves to plastic and we still can’t pull the trigger.

These are pragmatic pressures (proximity of a dumpster vs driving to the landfill or spacing out your tree pruning over a couple of weeks). Imagine the financial pressures faced by big corporations. Heck, I remember a few years ago insurers wanting to know if employees were bike commuting because it presented additional risk that companies either had to pay for or pass on to their employees.

We’re doomed.

Somebody give me some good news. Tell me I’m wrong, tell me you stopped a baby seal from getting clubbed to death (metaphorically speaking).

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