This ongoing effort to save the planet requires from us a strange combination of behaviors, this effort, requires, as it is currently espoused: cycling and recycling, reusing and reclusing, not buying, especially buying, salvaging. etc.
Strange indeed that many of these world-saving maneuvers are nothing new to an impoverished person. They weren’t even new in the Eighties.
Peculiar, also that none of them require any intelligence, but rather demand menial work: pedaling, sorting trash, sanding an old chair, stitching clothes poorly, or gardening.
Have you ever wondered: where did they come from, these items on this list of things we must all do to be responsible? Why these items, and not others?
And why (I ran out of numbers: oh wait, no I didn’t. I never started counting) did the study of environmental regulation not make this list? I suppose it is much more utilitarian for everyone to sort their trash, and that is where our global responsibility lies. Likewise knowing the details of available technologies for low-energy anything-and-everything (transportation, maybe) turned out to be far less important than growing own own food.
It also seems rather unimportant to teach anyone to drive in a way that maximizes the efficiency of their gas usage, when one can instead teach them to build a rain barrel. Or at least to feel that they should own one. Maybe because then they will just stay home.
And so we see that around a strong kernel of good intention, layers of greed have accumulated to seal out new ideas, and reduced those who care about the earth to menial laborers.
If I hated the planet, I cannot think of a better way to nullify the energies of so motivated a group than to set them diligently growing their own cucumbers and canning their own pickles.
As an outside observer, one is also alarmed: as the circumstances this wholesome, well-motivated culture accumulates around itself reproduce exactly those of a post-apocalyptic world where no one went to college, where there is no government, and all the institutions that we’ve worked on for hundreds of years might not even exist.
I don’t want to live in that world. I believes we’re smarter than that. Not my idea of a fun game.
I don’t want to say that we would almost certainly be further along in all the efforts to moderate and preserve our natural environment if all the time we spent matching the definition of eco-friendly had instead been spent on thinking and complaining and learning, rather than playing with trash. Maybe I should just say that we certainly would be. Yes, that sounds right.
I suppose not one of us wants to trust any other one to think, though, and so our actions and guidance should remain at the level of “kill a pig and make your own bacon.”
Which anyone can do.
Although when you do it, it is one of the least friendly things you can do to the world.
Only because you don’t know how to kill a pig.
And you don’t know how to make bacon.
And YOU’RE AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER.
You don’t even need bacon. And you threw most of that pig away.
So the next time you want to spend 10 hours on a Saturday doing something that might or might not work out, hop on the internet. Try to find out what those few people with the ability to make decisions and actions that actually impact something the size of a planet are up to.
You might have to make a second trip, to figure out how to figure out if any of it is what they should be up to.
But once you have that, it’s easy. Just light something up, slice into the tenderest parts, and smoke those suckers until they turn tasty. (Just to be clear, that means “figure out how the decisions and actions of these people can be changed.”)
Reminder: This is what we have these institutions for. They can do what we can’t.
Now can I finally say how glad I am that we all have to do everything ourselves. I’ll build my own electric range, soon, probably. I can build my own bicycle already! I’ll grow my own food, I’ll be my own media network, I’ll clean up my own block, I’ll be the neighborhood watch; and of course I’ll take care of my own trash, and everybody else’s, and my goat. Each and every one of us can and should, don’t you think, reproduce the learning processes that our great-great-great grandfathers were bored to tears with. What else would we do with our time?
I’ve never been able to get anyone to tell me the details of the end of the world they’re preparing for. It’s most salient features seem to be the unavailability of retail food, the unavailability of gasoline, and everyone on the planet suddenly turning against everyone else, perhaps by necessity of implementing a policy of “shoot first ask questions later,” since, should we share our canned goods with strangers happening by, we might starve.
I feel ready. I can handle it. Whatever it is.
I’m going to need my one-acre farmette, and my bacon-making skills. It’s all on me. And definitely not you. Unless you are my friend. And then we can make bacon together. And pretend we’re in a commune. But just on Saturday. And just in our house. Very important that we stay in our house, on our own property. Or in our own little apartment. Somewhere within. Inside. We have to be inside: we’re busy, and that’s where the kitchen is. And the toolshed. Something happened Saturday? Yeah, I remember. That was the day I was making my own pillowcases. I’ll tell you what out of later.
No, not that Saturday, the Saturday before, when I was writing my own Facebook? I insist on keeping my code local. I don’t know how other people stand it, shipping their HTML and PHP all the way across the country every time they log on; and along with everybody else, I mean, everybody’s else’s, in some kind of big trunk. Yuck! It’s so much better to have your own, you know? I’m sure mine’s cleane; even if it doesn’t look like much I know where it came from and what’s in it. There’s no no God-knows-what that they put in the pre-packaged Facebook. I can’t even say the names of most of those things. I just read them in the activity monitor* and wince. What is that? Shouldn’t we know what’s in our software? And no cookies. No cookies in this house. No way. They’re not good for my kids.
If it was a Sunday, then I was probably working on building my own cellphone. (No, it’s not that hard. You just follow the youtube videos. I’m on step #702.)
(You did that already? Huh. Do you need any pillowcases? )
Hold on, something’s happening on my phone. I sort all my own packets. Anything that comes in, I just read it, figure out what it is, and send it to the right app. It’s single-stream, so I just cut, then point. Like they say, Read, Recon, Remit. You don’t? No, it doesn’t take take much time out of my day. Just a few more, hold on. I’ll just fold this one up so it fits.
(I know that’s not packet switching, but I like the phrase packet switching, because of the ka tch sounds: ka, tch; ka, tch; ka tch … hey! How did you know that’s not packet switching? Do you roll your own too?)
Definitely a Saturday? Oh, I bet it was three weeks ago, when I was making my own roads. Wherever I go, I just put down a road. Made of straw. And shepherds. That was it then, right? What happened that Saturday?
What? No, I didn’t hear about that. Oh, that’s crazy. No, I’m not doing that! What a weirdo. Can you even do that? How would it work? Some people are way out there. Can you imagine, without a medical degree? What for? No, doctors do that! No, you have to be a doctor! You can’t do that yourself. What a whackjob. What, he just got one at the store and did it? Crazy.
Ok maybe, I mean, the more you knew about that, probably the better you could kill a cow or goat. I’m not doing it though. Reading a book about physiology and medicine. Why? Who does that? The whole thing too? That’s just too far. I do enough. What will anyone think of next?
Next Saturday? Oh, I was going to write poetry. And go hiking.
PPS: They built machines that sort trash into trash, compost, biofuel, and various kinds of recyclable, oh, 15 or so years ago. I think they kept them off the market just because it’s fun to watch you do it. Keeps you busy.
Some photo credits:
*That’s the task manager, friend.
**http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t01.htm Less if you are am American male, much more if you live outside of the US and Britain.