Monday, July 14, 2008

Caught in the most cush place in the world/time

"Waste! Not" article (from Boston Ideas)
Smart! Treating our waste as a resource, not as something to be done away with. And also thinking about ways to reduce the large amount of clean water we use in our current inefficient sewage system. But the psychological barriers to these advances are formidable. (Agh, I can't believe that diarrhea takes more lives than AIDS does in Africa... When we get the runs here, all it takes it some Tums, water, and rest and we're good to go after a few hours or so.) A lot of good research has been taking place, (much of it in a more forward-thinking Europe?), but it doesn't seem that realistic for America to adopt these new toilets any time soon, not as long as we are still wealthy and comfortable. Curse riches!

I've been reading Out of the Silent Planet (seem to have gotten in a sci-fi stage as of late, unintentionally) with a bemused perspective of one who has only appreciated C.S. Lewis for Narnia and his challenging, yet illuminating books on Christianity. So while it has been enjoyable, sci-fi C.S. Lewis is sorta weird in light of the depth of his other work. He compares himself to H.G. Wells (with whom I am not very familiar, sadly), but the sci-fi genre has never fully excited my imagination, because it involves a complete suspension of belief where I can hardly question anything without being dragged away from the story with a growing list of unanswered questions. I'm no scientist, but it's hard for me to immerse myself in a world that is completely different from the one in which I live.

Anyways, in the book, listening to Ryoi the alien hrossa talk about his species'(?) existence alongside with his enemy species' existence, and how they love the enemy even though they kill each other reminded me of what I learned about Native Americans in high school. They had a similar philosophy of life, treating the earth as a gift to be used and taken care of, but not abused. Animals were killed only for food and shelter, and killing for profit or fun was a vile concept outside of their thinking. Everything was done out of necessity, and never out of hate or excessiveness. What simplicity and harmony with the earth (until the Whites came and destroyed all of this in blood-thirst, greed and conquering spirit. Enter a new, powerful, extremely destructive civilization. And I'm part of that legacy. Is the Earth going to look like itself in Wall-E, a few hundred years from now? Uninhabitable?)

In light of this example, our modern lifestyles appear absolutely abhorrent and irresponsible. Driving luxury cars that make our air irreversibly dirty, and owning multiple cars? Littering? Creating so much trash out of unnecessarily excessive packaging, wasted food, and unused products? Living in giant homes that regulate temperature regardless of energy expenditure (One of my roommates used to turn the thermostat down to somewhere in the 60's and bury herself in her thick covers!)? Upgrading perfectly functional goods and owning new things all the time? There is no comparison.. Recent advances in more sustainable living are heartening, yet it is obvious that none of these advances and concessions would have to be made if our attitudes weren't so ruthless, short-term, and seeking for immediate satisfaction in the first place. We're not going backwards, but it sure seems that way as better ways of living call us to forgo comforts we always thought we were entitled to. And that's really uncomfortable! I have been accused of black and white thinking, so with that in mind, as Americans, I think eventually we'll have to get used to be pretty uncomfortable all the time, as long as we remember our past comforts. In fact, I currently feel guilty for having the luxury of hiding out in my really cool room when it's 102 degrees outside. Not that I am going to create discomfort for myself to expunge my middle-class guilt, but part of me longs for the day where collective good triumphs over individual ease. Yes, all our conveniences allow us to accomplish more and enjoy/consume more, but how much more meaningful is it to work, create and succeed within responsible boundaries? A lot more. Middle-class America has a long way to go, but the small changes within and the ones without (see poor countries) are for real. I'm staying tuned.

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