Talking Feather Time: The Cave of the Dragon

When I was six years old and leaving India on a boat for England, I stood with my father at the deck rail as the ship ploughed across the Indian Ocean when another passenger carelessly tossed a bottle into the sea. I remember remarking to my Dad that he shouldn’t do that. My father replied, “Zara, the sea is so vast that it doesn’t matter.” What a difference the span of a lifetime makes! We know now what I intuited as a child that treating the oceans as a garbage dump definitely does make a difference.

We don’t treat the earth any better. When I walk the woodland trails on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville, AL I take a bag along with me to pick up trash, usually the ubiquitous plastic water bottles, ironically the bag I take is also plastic. I also pick up trash on Bankhead Parkway, a beautiful tree lined road to Monte Sano State Park. It also is regularly strewn with garbage. Judging by the empty cans the beverage of choice is Stella Artois, followed closely by Bud Blue Light accompanied by multiple chaser shots of Fireball, a cinnamon flavored whiskey containing propylene glycol, better known as anti-freeze! Fireball advertises, “It Tastes Like Heaven and Burns Like Hell,” and is intended to give a ‘dragon breath’ sensation when swallowed! Really? Anti-freeze? Yikes!

As I wonder about the driving / biking ability of the litterbugs following consumption of their favorite beverages, I also wonder who picks up at home after these slobs? Are Fireball bottles and empty cans littered over the floor at home? What did they learn growing up about littering? Who picked up after them? Then I remember my own dilemma: I don’t know how to dispose of the plastic I use. I buy reusable bags from Publix for groceries, but fill the bag with plastic covered items and containers! The apartment complex where I live has just discontinued recycling, so I throw everything into the dumpster. I too am a litterbug. I don’t know how to return to the simpler pre-plastic world of my childhood. I am the man throwing the bottle into the ocean!

We are all captive of the dragon in one way or the other. Plastic has a catastrophic environmental impact with an environmental footprint of hundreds of years. Rich countries ship their unrecyclable waste to poorer countries, which are now refusing to accept the containers and shipping them back to where they came from. I have no answers on how to clean up this colossal, diabolic disaster except to acknowledge my own place in the desecration. It’s time to do some serious dragon slaying to save good lady earth.

St. George Slays the Dragon – Paolo Uccello

2 thoughts on “Talking Feather Time: The Cave of the Dragon”

  1. Zara,
    I share your lament. Last April 22, Earth Day 49, I pledged to stop using single use plastics in my house. It was a small step, since everything seems to be packaged in plastic; water bottles are plastic, yogurt containers, ziplocks…the list is endless.

    My first, and possibly most significant move, was to make my own sparkling water. I use a DrinkMate, although there are other brands that are popular too. This took out 3-4 plastic bottles of San Pellegrino a day. That’s about 1200 a year. Yikes!

    I also have a wooden rack, which I suspect is supposed to be a dish rack. I use it to dry out and reuse ziplocks. I had a stash of zip locks in the house and realized that throwing away new ziplocks to keep the pledge was counter-productive. In the 6 months since the pledge, I still have a stash of Ziplocks, because I’ve reused and reused.

    Finally, I will not buy a product a single serve product in plastic. Want yogurt? I buy a larger container that has many servings. When the larger container is done, I wash and take the container to a food shelf, so the guests might pack out an extra meal.

    I know mine is a small step. But even this small step has me looking at packaging at the store and choosing glass over plastic, recognizing that my small choices matter.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response – it does feel like a drop in the ocean, but we have to start somewhere! I get infuriarated by the habit of offering plastic water bottles at every meeting I attend as a mark of hospitality!!!

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