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.