Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My Milk Carton Plug in the Belly of a Bird

There's a word for what I have: eco anxiety.

I just listened to a new podcast hosted by Ashley Ahearn that finally named it for me. Eco anxiety, the depression that happens when the problem of sustainability just seems so overwhelming, so paralyzing, so fucking oppressive.

Okay, you're right. It's only one of the things that's wrong with me. Thanks for that.

Still, have you ever heard me complain about all the plastic in the gyre? You know, that floating plastic island the size of Texas that exists in each of the oceans? It keeps coming back to me, this awful thing we're doing without even thinking.

A single human mind can't really think globally all that well. When I shop for food, it's hard to imagine where my food came from, how many gallons of gas were consumed to make it arrive at my hand, how much plastic from its packaging will remain for decades after I've finished eating it, or worse, letting it rot in the fridge and throwing it out unopened. It's a paralyzing thought, this gyre the size of Texas, something that is filled with the plastic packaging from food I buy every other day.

It is a killing thing, a plague on our sea mammals, on our fish, and on our sea birds. I think about the little plastic plug I pull out the first time I open a milk carton. Do I need that plug? Really? Do I need to eat from a plastic container of lettuce every single day? Do I need to grab a Ziploc bag when I could put my food into a reusable container instead? If I were to collect my daily plastic, would I kill a single albatross every night with what I throw away? I just might.

Chris Jordan is my new hero. He went to Midway and filmed the beauty and the agony of the albatrosses there and the plastic that ends up in their bodies. Watch. And that's just the trailer to the movie.

Don't you feel small? Don't you feel a little bit paralyzed to do anything about it? I do. Name it: eco anxiety.

And yet, I'm headed to the park with my dog and after that to the grocery store. If I can keep Chris Jordan's story in my head for just twenty-five minutes, I can think about how much plastic I buy when I bring home my food. I can choose food based on packaging. Do I continue to buy the lettuce in a thick plastic tub when I could get it loose or in a bag that contains much less plastic.

Less plastic.

Maybe we should have a plastic tax, a price we pay per ounce at the grocery store every time we buy something with plastic packaging. Wouldn't that go over well in the Trump administration? What a joke.

Still, we have to work toward solutions despite the fact that our federal government no longer believes in sustaining the planet. WE have to do the work.

Yet it's hard to keep moving forward. It's hard to write to companies that make our favorite food and tell them we can't buy it any more because of their plastic packaging. It's hard to look at the plastic we regularly throw away and wonder which ways we can cut back, even small steps. Products are moving toward using more plastic and not less. Have you looked at pet food lately? Big thick plastic bags instead of the heavy paper it used to come in. I know, if you dropped a forty pound bag on the floor before, the damn paper would split and you'd be on your knees picking up kibbles for an hour.

But at what cost do we switch to the heavy plastic bags for the convenience of handling them more roughly?

All those dead birds, and seals, and dolphins, and whales.

So, I know you're out there, struggling with your own eco anxiety. Do something beautiful. Do something energetic. Listen to loud music. But don't give up.

The albatross needs you.

Thank you for listening, jules

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