“Yet even with these clearer design cues, customers will have to be taught to think about the destination of every throwaway if the zero-waste philosophy is to prevail, environmental officials say…”

That’s the thing, isn’t it? You have to think all the time. Think when you buy. Think when you discard. Know about stuff that has been hidden from view, often quite purposefully, often because we don’t want to know and never have (Not in MY backyard…)

And I find… I’m not saying this to be cruel, or accuse people of being “sheeple” or some similar horrid term, but it is my observation that a lot of people find thinking tiring. This is merely funny when they’re accusing you of spoiling their favorite book by having the temerity to analyze it, but a bit more serious when they refuse to separate their garbage or buy the non-disposable option.

I suspect a lot of it is the particular form that capitalism has taken, especially in the U.S. Our employers do more and more to eat our leisure time, commutes (besides being environmental nightmares in themselves where the public transit is weak) get longer, and the only compensation we’re offered in return is the promise that the things we buy will make our non-work hours a lotus-filled haven of contentment. We’re not free long enough to get bored and actually want to do something, which I (incurable optimist) am convinced that even the most putatively sheep-like person will do eventually when offered a surfeit of leisure. Not that a hearty dose of socialism by itself is going to cure our environmental woes, but a person working two jobs, caring for their children and home in between, may well decide that a special trip down to the recycling center is a corner that can be cut, just like home-cooked meals or exercise or any of the other long-term desirable things that the more fortunate scold us for not doing often enough.

And speaking of that home, those children… who is taking care of them? If it’s disproportionately a woman (as, statistically, it often is even when both parents work) then giving up the Swiffer, mucking through the trash bin picking out carelessly discarded bottles, rinsing and reusing plastic baggies, are all likely to fall disproportionately on her as well. As is the work of reminding (read: get criticized for nagging) the partner to do what he needs to do (mulch the lawn clippings, not throw the bottle in the trash to begin with). Again, hard to fault someone who already is burdened for looking for short cuts. Hard to blame someone who already has a lot on their mind for being a “sheeple” when they balk at adding something else.

Again, the successful conclusion of the gender revolution is not going to magically solve our environmental problems (not even if we all start praying to Mother Earth or what have you.) But it’s increasingly apparent that a whole lot of our culture is going to have to change, and change in sync, to pull our fat out of the fire. And since rapid social change is generally pretty wrenching (to say nothing of hard to steer) we’d best get on it now and give ourselves as much time as possible to work it out.

Because it is going to have to be worked out. This (warning: graphic photos) is one reason why.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook
Nature Blog Network