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Going Green

I was a hard-core environmentalist once.


In college I helped start my university’s recycling program by stuffing the basement of my dorm full of newspapers until the Fire Department barfed regulations all over the Director of Student Activities. At my old job I held on to a recycling station long after most of the others had migrated into full-time general trash cans and I found out the maintenance workers just threw out everything, despite being repeatedly warned not to do that. I gave up eating meat, because the meatpackers disgust me (did you know that as meat eaters, we’ve probably eaten human parts that got caught in the machine?) and because the runoff from the cattle effluence is a major source of pollution.

Now I have a beautiful, happy baby boy.

Watching the news I wonder how great it must be to be a child (specifically, my child. I know not all children have such blissful lives.) Ronan, who simply beams happiness whenever he’s not overtired or hungry, has no idea of how terrible things are for most of the world. As I watch PBS News (the least offensive TV News) I marvel at how completely fucked up things are, and how much worse they are going to get, and then wonder if I didn’t bring Ronan into the world just for him to watch it obliterate itself.

And then he smiles, and I wonder what the fuck I was just thinking. Ooohh, big smile!

I’m aghast at myself for this, but I’ve become a creature of convenience. I think we all have to do more, but damn it, I’m tired. I’ve eaten terribly and slept terribly for four months, and I just don’t want to think about global warming right now.

Yes, we just upgraded our air conditioner to a supposedly more energy efficient model, and we’re trying to figure out if it’s the Mayor’s Office or the Department of Film and Television or New York’s Strongest Sanitation or Con Edison or Harry Potter or whomever is supposed to drain the old one of nasty fluids so we can trash the old one, which was built out of an old engine from the Spruce Goose and just as loud.

But I don’t want to do any more than check to see if my used salad dressing bottle has a “1” or a “2” on the bottom and toss it into the recycling bin. I think the biggest problem the environmental movement has is that parents are just too overwhelmed to care. Yes, if we all just separated our garbage a little, millions of birds and fish would live happy lives until fat happy bears ate them. But damn it, it’s 5:15 AM as I write this, Ronan is staring at me with his gorgeous hazel eyes (he got them from his Mom, who has amazingly gorgeous eyes as well) and he doesn’t want to sleep.

I think I began to question my commitment to environmentalism when the empty box crisis hit us. It began with the IKEA store we set up in Ronan’s bedroom. Sure, the PAX wardrobe looks great now, but the seventeen boxes it came in had to be broken down. Boxes will not break themselves down and tie themselves up with string. (Note to packaging conglomerates: I am not advocating self-disposing boxes. Please do not think of more ways to waste oil.) The next wave was the baby shower. Then the UPS man dropped by daily. Yes, we found space for all the wonderful clothes, furniture and presents, but the boxes they came in piled up in the outside hallway.

I don’t know the published reason the garbage men have to have tied up boxes for recycling (just like I don’t understand why the recycling truck is so far behind the garbage truck) but I think the actual reason is that less people will recycle if they have to do something about it first. I am completely incapable of simultaneously holding piles of cardboard while wrapping string around them, so I’ve come up with an ingenious plan: I wait for Terry to tie everything up.

My wife was a cowboy in a former life. I’m thinking of buying her a branding iron just so she can complete the picture. (NOTE: I just read that sentence, and it is way more salacious than I intended. She is not getting a branding iron for Christmas. I’m not into that sort of thing.) With only two hands, she can wrestle the boxes together, wrap them in what seems to be a single stroke, and tie a knot quicker than the MTA crushes your joy like a hard boiled egg. (Expect to see that phrase a lot, because it confused people, and I’m going to use it as my non sequitur signature.) And dang it all, she ties it perfectly tight, without wasting string, every time.

When I attempt to recycle boxes, either I run out of string before I get all the way around, or I use too much string, or the knot doesn’t hold, or when I pick it up, the string is too loose and all the boxes fly everywhere. Terry has shown me her amazing super powers several times but I can’t figure out how to tie a simple square knot to the right length.

Keep in mind that when we recycle cardboard, WE RECYCLE CARDBOARD. The first pile was almost two feet high and four feet long. Try to measure the right amount of string for that.

While Terry has energy and mad skills to deal with cardboard recycling, I just think of the baby and I’m bushed. (Not that Terry isn’t tired; I’ve been getting more sleep on average the past four months.) Dishes? I have a baby. Cleaning the house? I just changed him. Grocery shopping? Well, I could throw on a baseball cap and not shower and head to the coop.

That’s the evil corporations’ diabolical plan: to get all the exhausted, overwhelmed parents together and frame the entire environmental debate in terms they can’t deal with: Saving the planet means you will have to do more work. This is evil in so many ways.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 26, 2007 5:50 AM.

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