This Sweet Old World

I’ve been humming the tune of This Sweet Old World today, floating between grief and disbelief over the BP Spill.  This isn’t a scree about that mess, I don’t know what can really be said.  BP should promise flat out that it will do anything and everything possible to make this right, simply, clearly, no hedging.

This sweet old world….


Yesterday I had a minor medical treatment that involved a small incision and some stitches.  No big. But I was somewhat dumbfounded when over the course of 25 minutes I saw the assistant put on, remove and toss in the garbage no less than six pairs of latex gloves.

No, really.  Six pairs.  Right in the plastic bag that held the growing mound of waste that would be collected up and thrown somewhere.  The ocean probably.

I mentioned my surprise to the assistant and he, without the slightest thought, said, “well, we have to use a new set of gloves each time we open a canister because the germs can spread so easily.”

Ok.  Picture this: my little treatment happening at that moment, hundreds and hundreds of times yesterday all around the world…cuz yeah, it wasn’t very exotic.  And then imagine more complex treatments, and full out surgeries. Imagine the amount of plastic bags full of latex and plastic wrappers emanating from those hospitals all around the world.

six pairs of latex gloves in 25 minutes

So I’ve been thinking about this. Rolling it around in my head, along with the beached whales this summer and their stomachs full of plastic, and the ease of plastic, and the mindlessness of plastic and then a talk by Bill McKibben gave on NPR the other day and his new book, Eaarth,  which argues for the end of growth.

How did I get there?  Because it is the magic thinking of an expanding universe of humanity that is at the root of most of our problems today…as McKibben says, we are now “too big to succeed.”

Consider: the growing universe of germs is due to an ever increasing population that is ever increasing its number of cure-all antibiotics that the invisible microbial world mutates to conquer again and again and again.

Consider: the more people we have, the more resources we use, in an obviously limited world.

Consider: the dwindling resources requires us to take ever more extreme actions to supply the ever increasing population of humans demanding ever more of everything, while believing there is no cause-and-effect–magic!.

There is a report today about the impact slowing down– reducing driving speeds– would have in a systemic way...proof positive that a small thing can make a big difference.  We could do this, but as a nation, the idea of slowing down is insulting, not to mention unenforced, and basically any questioning of our power to do what we want, when we want, and at the speed we want, is generally viewed as unpatriotic.  Our magic thinking has gone round the bend.

There are things we could do.  You and I both know there are things we could do differently, for the sake of this sweet old world.

2 responses to “This Sweet Old World

  1. I thought the same thing the other day. What small thing/s could I do to make change in the amount of oil we use. If all of us do small changes this will make a huge difference. I started by looking at all the plastics I use, from plastic bags to carry my produce home to plastic yogurt containers, to plastic take-out. So for me it is making my own yogurt, salad dressings, mayonnaise and tomato sauces and salsa. I also will reuse my plastic bags that my produce goes in. How silly to use it just once and throw it away. At the same time I will bundle my running around; instead of jumping into the car because I need something now, it will have to wait until I am going that direction. If we are not implementing change in our daily habits, even small change, we are part of the problem.

    • It means so much to know that others out there are trying in their own small ways to do what they can–thanks Reva. We also re-use our plastic bags, but so much comes wrapped and packaged in plastic, it’s sometimes discouraging. My year long project to see how I use driving (and I’m totally convinced we as a culture “use” driving for all kinds of things that have nothing to do with needful transportation), I began the habit of bundling tasks. Life took on a new level of relax, and peeps don’t believe me when I tell them that, but the upside to changes like these is enormous–for the planet and for your own life. Keep it going!

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