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04/22/2009

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cfl

Pretty sunset.

I'm embarrassed and vexed (ha!) by 'Earth Day.' The public school I went to, back in the days of the mastodons, taught things like tolerance, equality, and ecology. I mean, actual lessons. I look back and wonder: in a school of a thousand kids, was there anyone, besides myself, who took any of it seriously?

I still have the poem I wrote in 1970, for some assignment, about the possible danger of melting ice caps and rising sea levels. (A fantastical, science-fiction threat, at the time.) I recall the assigned reading of Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring,' and programs on PBS about the development of electric cars, solar and wind power, and something called ‘recycling,’ which promised a future of clean air and water, and intact forests.

Besides all that, I was taught to turn off the light when I left the room, and not to linger at an open front door in winter. My parents never ‘upgraded’ our split-level to central a/c, to keep up with the Joneses, when it became de rigueur.

During the ‘oil crisis,’ these things seemed reinforced, as people spoke of higher-mileage cars, and buildings in Manhattan ran only necessary lighting overnight.

But then something weird happened. Suddenly, ‘ecology’ was over. It mutated into a hippie-dippy anachronism that no one talked about or remembered. Conservation, pollution, and environment became, like many progressive issues, the preoccupations of ‘fringe groups,’ ‘losers,’ ‘wimps,’ and the ‘cheap.’

From my late adolescence on, I watched the wanton use of resources escalate geometrically. Cars got bigger and less efficient. A/C became something that was ‘normal’ to run, at full throttle, all day and night. TV’s and other electronics were designed to be on all the time, and draw power in the background, for ‘instant on’ capability. (The idea spread to all types of devices.) Fax machines and computers evolved. Offices became committed to leaving equipment running 24/7.

Meanwhile, the Amazon forest began to be leveled. Junk mail became a USPS staple. (It is nearly all that keeps them in business, nowadays.) Everyday packaging became opulent and complex: styrofoam peanuts and blocks, plastic shrink- and bubble-wrap, acres of cardboard and tyvek, molded, ultra-hard plastic containers for everything, which require a scissor to open...

It became impossible to avoid participating in the overload of garbage, junk, and waste that became the American Way. The never ending chore of calling companies to cancel unsolicited catalogues became a losing battle. The consumption of extravagant and reckless packaging has become inevitable. My prescriptions are now handed to me in a sealed plastic bag, which contains the same sealed paper bag they already came in. My mail lady tells me that she’s not allowed, via post office dictate, to stop delivering the daily coupon circulars and ad flyers that I don’t want, and which consume god knows how many trees. About 40% of the garbage I carry out is unwanted mail – much of which has to be shredded, by yet another electronic device. 30% is packaging. (Of that, maybe half is ‘recyclable,’ where I live).

I walk by closed shops late at night and feel the blast of 65 degree air pumping from the crack between the front glass doors. The standard American bathroom is supposed to have a 100-gallon whirlpool tub. TV ads promote ‘environmentally friendly’ cars with 22 mpg mileage (and I know people who think this is good), or hybrid SUVs. (Is that like buying an energy-efficient, heated Olympic pool?)

So here I am, today, bombarded with ‘new’ notions of ‘Green’ and ‘footprints,’ and ‘efficiency.’ To which I say: you’re kidding me, right?

I’m supposed to get all anxious and micro-focused on my every move, to compensate for half a century of head-in-the-sand denial, cultural dissipation, and corporate transgression? Wouldn't that be like giving away my tax dollars to compensate for people and businesses who choose to be mortally irresponsible with credit/money?

I love the Earth. But ‘Earth Day?’ As in, ‘Use two fewer paper towels today?’ Or ‘Be sure to recycle that milk carton?’

Without considering the entitled solipsism behind our habitual, consumerist gluttony, or the profligate corporate exploitation of global resources (as underwritten by elected officials for the last 25 years), ‘Earth Day’ (and the concept of ‘Green’), to me, is just another pre-packaged, anesthetic, consumer sound-bite/distraction/deflection of responsibility, with as much substance, and probable longevity, as the next TV ‘reality’ show.

John

Well....I remember my first Earth Day in 1970 in 7th grade. I collected bottles rather than putting them in the trash....but had no place to put them and no way to deal with them, so I left them by the side of the school, hoping the magic ecology fairy would take my meager offering thereby saving the planet.

However, I also remember the Hudson River was infinitely more polluted than today; that cars probably got 12 miles to the gallon (if anyone checked, which they didn't b/c gas was only .35cents a gallon); that at the campground in Florida where we stayed (circa. 1964) a huge tanker truck came by spraying the trees with gallons of ???? and we kids would run in the mist, b/c it was cool and smelled good. I bet it was DDT.

Good times....

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Gods final
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Music: Death Culture at Sea and Saturnine

Listen or download songs and records from my indie-rock past with Saturnine here and Death Culture at Sea here.

Music Video: Remembrance of Things Past

Watch the rock opera Remembrance of Things Past written and performed by Saturnine and Frances Gibson, starring Bennett Madison and Sheila McClear.

Video: The Chaos Detective

The Chaos Detective is a series about a man searching for 'identity' as he completes assignments from a mysterious organization. Watch the first episode (five parts) on YouTube.

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