Sunday, July 08, 2007

Environmental Activism - Another Soapbox?

That questions is targeted at me. I wonder if I soapbox. Or rather if I soapbox too much. But then I realize that this is my blog and while readership (oooooh so snooty! I might have people who read this, but definitely no readership) is great, well, I'm talking here.

So anyway. I've loved the outdoors for a while now. My family went camping every summer since I can remember, and while I did not really take to the fishing aspects that well (they were kind of boring, and usually really hot), I loved the tent part and the playing part and the trees part and definitely the hammock part. My passion for the outdoors continued in Boy Scouts, where I eventually found myself doing "High Adventures" to places like the Adirondacks and Boundary Waters, and loving every minute of it. I now would describe myself as a backpacker, who aspires to be a rock climber, mountaineer, mountain biker, canoer and maybe kayaker (that's lowest on the list of priorities).

Thus, in the current debate about climate change, I have a vested interest: I want to continue to play outdoors. I can't say however, that I have done anything in particular to *be* an environmentally aware person. I mean this past year I started walking to the grocery occasionally, and using my backpack instead of grocery bags occasionally, and I rode my bike to church once, but that was because I wanted to ride a bike, so that doesn't really count. I have also carpooled somewhat frequently, but again that doesn't count because I did it to save on toll money. But I've wanted to recycle. And I've felt guilty for not.

So it was interesting when, as I sat in my last day of Curriculum Theory & Development class on Friday, one of the groups presented on recycling and called it "Solely a moral decision." I expected them to say it was a stewardship issue, or an ethical issue (as in 'you should recycle unless you have shoddy ethics'), but it wasn't. It was a personal moral issue. So they said. And their reasoning went something like this. First, there are hidden costs in recycling. More trucks come to pick it up. More roads break down because of the heavy trucks. More tires are wasted. More gas is consumed. Then the recycling begins. Well it might begin if someone wants the materials, otherwise it just gets shipped to the landfill anyway. But if someone wants it then the recycling begins. Well sort of. Because only parts of the material can be recycled. It is not a 100% yield enterprise. You don't get all of the material back as useful new stuff. There is waste. And to top it off, the process is very energy expensive. This means it burns more coal or whatever to power the transformation that doesn't even recycle *all* of the junk.

So, one *could* argue, that in the current environmental and ecological landscape, the ethical thing to do is trash everything. Well, everything that can't be composted. Everyone should have a compost pile. That *was* agreed upon.

The recycling bit was news to me. I hadn't really thought about it before. Although, it is somewhat incomplete, because processes only improve if there is an incentive to improve them. It is almost impossible for the process to improve if no one is recycling at all. So having recycling around might spur more efficient recycling centers. Hopefully. So that is a reason to recycle.

But that's not really the point. The point then, is that the other 2 "R"s of the 3Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, are that much more important, and if you notice, they come first. So, as an individual, I can choose to purchase a huge tub of Gatorade powder instead of the 36 individually packaged Gatorade bottles because that reduces my waste. And then I can reuse the huge tub for...uh...something. Okay, I would still throw it away, but there would be less trash. The point is, people are starting to be environmentally conscious about food production (organic and whatnot) but the packaging is just overlooked.

Then, adding to all that, church today had the author of the book "Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action". The author, J. M. Sleeth, talks about how conservation is a Biblical imperative and that every person can do their part to help preserve the world around us. Then there is the website for his organization, called "Serve God, Save the Planet." It has lots of information, from religious textual examinations to church statements to next steps. Here is a list of questions and hints that he provides concerning a lot of the things that an individual could do to help cut down on their own environmental impact.


S said...

My roommates and I reuse the huge tub for bringing lemonade to the park.

Whatablair said...

my parents reuse milk jugs for that sort of thing.

but milk jugs can be recycled (well, in theory i guess) so i don't know.

maybe i'll just make hundreds of coin banks

Whatablair said...

an email i received from my buddy nick:
"Aluminum can be recycled 100%. Nothing is lost in the process."

that is a good point.

i think that aluminum and glass are both completly redeemable. but i don't know. if anybody actually knows, that would be cool.

i also think that this discussion was generally talking about plastics.