I just finished reading a novel about World War II which centered on a German woman who was in her early 20s when hell came to her town. It described how she struggled to survive while providing for her infant daughter and actions she took that enabled her and her child to eat while sacrificing some portion of her soul. When the Americans entered the area they rounded up all the townspeople and marched them to Buchenwald, the adjacent concentration camp and put them to work for a day burying the dead. It put the reality of what had been happening next door in front of their eyes. They could no longer be complacent in the fact that they knew….they knew and they did nothing or very little.
We’re there, people. Not a concentration camp killing people in Yamhill County, but as a society we are doing oh so very little to not kill our oceans and our earth. Even those of us who have acknowledged the monster feel insignificant against the tide of plastic pollution.
In the novel, the main character had been kicked out of her family home because she had become pregnant with a Jewish lover she tried to hide. He had been discovered and taken away, her father had the typical knee-jerk reaction and so she ran. The local baker took her in and taught her to bake. She discovered the baker was bringing extra bread and hiding it in a tree that the camp inmates could access as they marched back from a day of grueling labor to the camp. When the baker was caught and killed, the woman took over. So, even though she could do little, she did that. Afraid always of being caught, tortured and killed, but she did it.
And so must we. We have to change our ways. We’re not at risk yet….but it’s getting closer. Check out this video.
I don’t know how to reach the people who are not already enlightened. In a previous chapter of my life when I was learning about how many of the foods people chose to eat can cause life debilitating illness, I became angry and my blogs became preachy. A wise woman I did not know cautioned me not to “yell”. No one will listen if I yell. She became a close and loving friend I will always trust, because that is true. So I want to raise awareness to those people in our community that already don’t seem to have caught on.
Personally, I am struggling with some knee and hip problems that keep me from walking our wonderful Oregon beaches. The only one I can access is the drive-down beach at Pacific City at the haystack. That area is so busy that any trash that washes up gets cleaned up quickly. But the other beaches, I have been told, need regular clean-up.
Now, it is not really littering by beach lovers, although there is a tiny bit of that. What is happening is the normal ocean currents and waves carries plastic trash to our sands. We don’t know the origin of our beach litter, but we know if there is that much on the sand, it stands to reason that our waters are pretty loaded. We love our fresh seafood here in the Northwest and now many ocean animals are dying not only because they are ingesting plastic trash but because the water quality is being affected. Check out this video.
What can we do? We’re 50 miles inland and no one here is dumping their garbage in the water we think. So we may think we are not complicit.
But there is another level. It is the choice of what we purchase and use in our households, in our workplaces, in our recreation.
If we each reduce our dependence on plastic and ELIMINATE our use of single-use plastic, the manufacturers will begin to feel the reduction of income and make the changes that are needed.
For example, we heard a lot of “About time!” comments when McMinnville instituted the plastic bag ban at store checkouts. We also heard a number of complaints from people who just hate change, any change. Recently, as more and more cities and countries eliminate plastic bags from use in their area, manufacturers are beginning to explore other ways to provide a similar product made from vegetable matter. Those bags will be able to be composted and so, return nutrients to the soil.
Part of the reason this message has to get out to everyone is because recycling is no longer the easy answer. American culture is kind of lazy; people do the right thing when it is easy. For that reason we have curbside pickup of mixed recyclables and do not require households to sort into the many categories that would make it easier for Recology to find buyers for the material. Therefore, we have mixed collection and even though people are asked to clean the containers, many people do not. This food waste adds up to contamination levels that has lead the Chinese to refuse our trash.
And really, why should we have it so easy to think our trash disappears and we need not be responsible for it? This is something people have had to deal with from the very earliest civilizations. Midden piles are an archaeologist’s key to figuring out how people lived in that place and time.
What does your trash say about you and your lifestyle?