Monday, April 22, 2013

School Work

The next couple weeks are going to be hectic - starting two farmers' markets within one week of one another and final papers, quizzes, exams and presentations are coming due.

Here is the paper I just finished for my Social Problems class - enjoy!

Paper or Plastic: Our Disposable Society
            In the course of a week the kitchen garbage cans all over America fill up once, maybe twice, and get thrown out to “the trash,” wherever that is. The majority of individuals never handle the garbage much more than lugging the 13 gallon twist-tied bag from the kitchen to the curb at which point it gets hoisted by the arm of a garbage truck and dumped out into the compactor. In 2010 alone, after burning or recycling solid waste, America still had 136 million tons of garbage to contend with. It is important to discuss this because our resources are finite and at the current level of growth, our environment is suffering, and in turn, we are too.
            In one morning alone, the average consumer in the U.S. might take a tube of toothpaste out of its box, use one paper plate, a Styrofoam cup and lid, two paper napkins, one gum wrapper, two bottles of water and one plastic fork. Add to this list the remainder of the day’s garbage and multiply it by 315,718,000 – the approximate population in America as of 2012 – that’s a lot of solid waste to contend with. It is all going into the earth, into the air, and into the water – three essential things we need to survive.
            We can blame the pollution on capitalism, which “demands the pursuit of profit,” created primarily after the Industrial Revolution, which “changed everything by replacing muscle power with combustion engines that burn fossil fuels such as coal and oil.” (Macionis 424, 433) And we could certainly point fingers at the development of technology. What is most clearly to blame, though, is the attitude of consumerism within our society.
            It isn’t difficult to see that our world is changing fast, and not for the better. While one might believe that the technological advances of today’s society have made life better, it has also made the earth rebel. Global warming, acid rain, the vanishing rain forests, loss of biodiversity, water and air pollution are major problems. While Al Gore’s “The Inconvenient Truth,” gave many a good political chuckle, it bears watching again. It is not someone else’s problem – it is ours together.
            The structural functional theory regarding environmental issues takes the perspective that the damage to our ecosystem is a symptom of society’s attitude toward the earth and resources. Our use of technology, our culture, and the thread of social patterns connect the function of society and the environmental problems that we have created.
Opposing this view is the social conflict analysis – they believe that the inequality in society is to blame for the damage in our environment. Their point is that a minimal number of individuals and groups have the power to fix the problems but instead the consequences are most felt by the poor.
            The rich are to blame, Macionis says, “It is the people in rich countries who consume most of Earth’s resources and who generate most air, water, and land pollution. In other words, not only do we maintain our affluent way of life by exploiting poor in low-income countries, but we poison the world’s air and water in the process.” (433)  The Marxist class-conflict theory states that what is needed is “a more equitable distribution of the world’s existing wealth among all its people, which would achieve greater social justice and better preserve the natural environment.”(433) Some say that the rich will have to do the most changing in regards to reducing waste, living more sustainably, and conserving.
            Whether rich or poor, there are many ways to become more sustainable. If we choose to make small changes, each one can add up to make a big difference. The reality is that our attitudes about the preservation of our environment has to become, as the text states, “ecocentric” as opposed to “egocentric.” Here are a few ideas:
  • ·         Recycle, repurpose, re-use
  • ·         Conserve; electricity, water, and other natural and technological resources
  • ·         Drive less (this is a multi-purpose step – saving tires, fuel, and reducing air pollution)
  • ·         Plan meals – eat at home, and use dishes instead of paper, plastic and Styrofoam products
  • ·         Consume less – do you really need that new iPhone cover? Or that pair of Nike shoes?

Although it seems like common sense to many, reducing, re-using, and recycling will not come naturally to some. Our culture has created an upcoming generation that has never used a telephone book, library system, public transportation, or payphone. It would be easy to say that equal distribution of wealth would solve many environmental challenges today, but realistically, it starts with one. Your home. My home. Your friends’ homes. Call it a pay-it-forward campaign for the earth.
      In light of Earth Day, this paper won’t be printed. It will be kept on a tiny flash drive, made of plastic, incidentally, and kept for years to come. Creating an “ecologically sustainable culture, a way of life that meets the needs of the present generation without threatening the environment for future generations,” will be the most important job I have as a mother, wife and steward of the earth. What happens in this home will affect future generations in a positive way. The ripple effect, although it may be slow and near-reaching, exists from this corner of the environment. Rich or poor, we will solve immediate environmental problems here, and learn from our mistakes. No more plastic utensils or Styrofoam cups. We’ll use our mason jars, milk our goat, and grow our gardens as big as we can. Preserving not only the earth, and our harvests, but a way of life, cultivating respect and a cleaner piece of land than when we found it.
      No, that won’t fix the air, the water, or the ever-increasing population issues but ignoring it on a societal level won’t either. It starts with ourselves, then as we learn and grow we get involved in policy-making, support conservation efforts, and eventually, our ripple reaches farther out. No immediate solution is plausible. But remember, the word impossible itself says, “I’m Possible,” and so is a sustainable lifestyle, even if begun in the smallest of ways.
      Keep going past the drive through, bring your own water in a BPA-free container, and pack a lunch – then pay-it-forward. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Dr. Suess. 

1 comment:

A Daughter of the King said...

In the past couple of years I have significantly reduced our trash output with very little effort. It amazes me how much we waste in our culture --rich and poor alike!

Our kitchen food waste goes to our 7 hens or our compost bins. I have a covered dish right next to the sink for the hens, and a covered tub under the sink for the bins. Our paper, cardboard, metal, glass and plastics 1-7 get recycled. To make this easy, I have a kitchen-sized trash can close to the kitchen, but not all the way outside, that gets taken out to the recycle bin. Since there is no food in the kitchen trash can, I re-use the bag at least 10 times. I am trying to cut back on as much plastic as possible, taking all grocery totes back to the store for recycling, using paper and reusable bags whenever possible. These few simple steps have helped create more than a ton of compost and a lot less trash.

I am thankful for people who bother to care for our beautiful environment.

God bless you!

What is this leisure time of which you speak?

my grateful button