A post written by Ryan Kemp, owner of Owl Travel.
Right now on Earth, we are in an environmental emergency. This emergency is fueled by a few major disconnects. One of these disconnects lies between the concept of our individual houses and the Earth as our collective Home. This is exacerbated by the way we understand these words, how they are treated in conversation and what they are honored as. The simplest way to view this is in the sense of trash; being thrown out on the streets, in rivers, lakes, oceans, et all. Come take a word walk with me for a few minutes, I promise it will be scenic.
Home /hōm/ Noun -- the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
Let’s start with a question: what do you consider your Home? What do you consider your house? Ponder this for at least seven seconds.
Okay, when most people enter a structure, an edifice that shelters them from weather and sometimes provides warmth, this is what they considered “my home” or “her house” or “their family’s house”. There is possession and responsibility. Let’s call this structure ‘house’ with a lower case ‘h’ only once people are inside of it. Everything on the outside, is just, well, Nature or Home, with a capital ‘H’ ‘Home’.
For tens of thousands of years, there was no difference in these two terms. It was blurred, as humans were a part of the environment, not separate from it, and the preservation and stewardship of the land and life around them was intricately tied to their own.
Enter in colonialism coupled with religious manipulation and indigenous genocide. Enter in a lack of understanding of the sacred and interconnectedness of all things outside of something to be exploited for our own financial gain. Enter into the industrial revolution, manufacturing, rapid population increase, desire for convenience. Concrete jungle. In comes trash.
Now we’re caught up. Some humans, when they have a piece of trash, and are thinking about a place to throw it out, they don’t see the dusty dirt road, the river or the sandy shore as their Home. It’s been acculturated and conditioned out of us to see this way. This could be because of living in a concrete world so devoid of Nature that the concept of a wilderness and living, breathing world where humans are not the only specie has faded away. Or, the relatively new introduction and rapid advent of single-use materials have rendered some in ‘post-colonial’ countries without the proper informational training surrounding the harm of these materials, that they are consequently throwing out the window or leaving on the street, and the fact that they do not biodegrade like a banana peel in a field.
However, I have rarely, if ever, in both ‘economically-developed’ and ‘post-colonial’ countries seen people throw trash or debris onto their home’s floor, sink or garage. If you’ve ever thrown a party, and left beer cans or empty chip bags laying around, they are promptly (once drunkenness or laziness dissolves) picked up and placed into some sort of disposal where these items have been designated to go.
Question: Have you ever thrown a piece of garbage onto the floor, or a cigarette butt onto the floor of your Auntie’s or friend’s house and seen what their reaction is? My guess is, probably not. The reaction could be ghastly, fully flabbergasted, disgusted with your ‘lack of care’ for their house.
Take one step outside and there’s garbage blowing in the wind, cigarette butts on the ground still burning with smoke curling up from the leftover tobacco.
This Nature is our collective Home, Planet Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, whatever you want to call Her. Us, the sea turtles bobbing in the waves, the moose in the forest eating berries, the spiders weaving cobwebs in the corner. All of our Home.
So, where is the disconnect and what is the root cause? How does dumping trash or tossing it over your shoulder into the Home feel better or more appropriate than dumping it in your own house? With some analysis, it comes down to two things, accountability and convenience.
Accountability. Normally, you must be accountable for what you bring into a house; either you or the host will clean it up. Garbage and waste is an eye-sore, finished plastic wrapper, canned food product, gross leftovers that have become stale. However, since you directly dwell and perhaps sleep in the space, you desire it (some people) to be clean and not full of trash; uncluttered for the cleanliness of mind (and perhaps the stench). Therefore, you hold yourself, or your guests, or vice versa depending on their morals, to be accountable for what you are bringing in and consequently disposing of.
However, when we leave this space and go out into Nature, accountability becomes vague. No one, unless someone sees you chuck something out of the window or onto the ground or into the stream, is going to hold you accountable. You are anonymous, free, in a lawless land. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If you throw a piece of plastic out of the window and no one sees you, do you feel guilty?
And, even if someone sees you, chances are they won’t have enough courage to call you out on your disrespectful and disgusting act of destruction. The bystander principle, a dangerously silent accomplice to the trashing of our collective Home. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to walk down the street and see trash laying everywhere, some decrepit car bumper, some half-open McDonald’s cardboard Big Mac container with thousand island sauce gooped from the side of it, paper-thin lettuce being nibbled by 27 ants, lying on the ground near where I have to get on the bus. Nor do I want to see trash lying around the house that I am living in at the time. In my eyes, there is no difference. Cut and dry, both homes; one micro, one macro, one individualized, one collective.
Convenience. Two sides, purchase and disposal. You’re right, it is so easy to buy things in plastic containers, things in cardboard, things in cans. And, once we use these things, sometimes there aren’t trash cans or recycling bins on every block. And, it’s difficult to have that trash in your hand for a few seconds or minutes longer, right? What a drag, trash, ew!
As a matter of fact, it is now more difficult to not consume things with some sort of packaging than it is to consume things without packaging. Farmer’s markets aside. Ain’t that crazy? And all packaging, relatively, unless you are conscious and skilled at repurposing, are single-use. Rip it open, pop the top, throw it away or recycle them. Where does the recycling go? Do you really know? Do you separate your glass, plastic, cardboard, and cans? Is there some guy who just chills in mountains of recycling material sorting it all? Different kinds of plastic degrade at different rates, but the average time for a plastic bottle to completely disappear is at least 450 years. It can even take some bottles 1000 years to biodegrade! Recycling ticks off this inner ‘good deed' bell, this inner ‘look-at-me-doing-my-part-to-save-the-world’ bell, which is actually a crock full of shit.
The real solution is not recycling. The real solution is to stop consuming single-use items.
Hard right? Yes, I know. It is because habits form easily, and die hard. But, the good thing is, our brain has high plasticity (no pun intended) and you can reshape your habits and enter into a place where you are, in small steps or cold-tofurkey, being more conscious of your consumption habits.
High priority convenience and low priority accountability are very strong habits in our modern-day society.
It is easy to drift through life, habit to habit, just like everyone else, consuming from the moment we wake up, whether it be media, food, or any other consumable, physical or informational until we go to sleep. (That’s what we call a zombie.) Always consuming for the engine of consumption that literally does not sleep. Every day a new product comes out, a new tank-top from H&M, a new clothing line with ethically-sourced cotton, a new yerba maté, a new candy with organic cane sugar. The enveloping need to consume more and more is woven deeply into the social fabric, and if you do not act accordingly, it appears that you eventually are no longer part of society or struggle to function within it.
We are living in a throw-away culture- except the things that we are throwing away do not biodegrade.
We are part of the Earth. As we exploit the Earth and use more and more trash, we become exploited and become trash as well. Our value isn’t going away, but is being moneypulated, sorry, spelling error, manipulated.
The only things that are biodegradable are in nature’s packaging.
Nature has designed these materials and this process using the millions of years of evolution that it has gone through, and it is perfect. We don’t need to recreate the wheel, just harness and work with the amazing engineering of Nature.
It is not about convenience, it is about preservation.
And preservation and habit-reversal takes skillful and dedicated effort. It takes effort to climb out of habitual holes as we’ve dug the holes over years and years. It may be painful and difficult, but it is of the utmost importance. Our life as we know it now literally depends on it.
In conclusion, I pose questions intertwined with a challenge.
The first question:
What are you going to do this year to become less ecocidal?
Bring attention to every time you purchase something to stimulate the question, “How would I consume this without wasting anything?”
Some simple tips:
· Shop at farmer’s markets
· Learn to grow some of your own food
· Purchase or find reusable containers for storage and use reusable bags for shopping
· Purchase a reusable coffee cup, utensils or bowls when you go out for a coffee, or drink it in the café opting in for a mug or non-disposables
· Stop buying plastic water bottles immediately
· Spread the message
It may require some convoluted thought, and some inconvenient measure, but, is it worth it? Is life on a planet, on a Home, that is so beautiful, abundant, and humble in its gifts to us, worth it? If not, keep doing what you’re doing– business as usual.
If it is, then, time to make a change. Be it.
With Love and Mercy,