I would say the planet is dying, but I know the planet will go on. I doubt there’s anything man can do that would permanently destroy the planet. This is a 4.5 billion year old rock that has been ravaged by cosmic radiation, volcanoes, and meteors. Surely man is as big if not a greater threat than all of those, but the planet will live on.
Man, on the other hand, has a limited shelf life. And while the damage we do may not destroy the planet, it will destroy us. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve accelerated the change of climate to a point of no return, and our sons and daughters will need to make hard decisions regarding how to continue on in that unknown world. It’s a situation so dire that even the Onion can only make jokes about the response, and not the event. I’m under no delusion about the tangible, physical pollution we leave in landfills and waterways. The floating ocean debris covering more area than Texas.
No modern society makes it easy to avoid polluting. Every convenience we’re handed comes wrapped in a landfill. Potato chips, our television, a cup of coffee, our sofa. Every comfort of our modern culture comes with a price, and that price is the poisoning of our habitat.
We’re taught to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but most of us skip the first two, if not all three. Again, nothing in society is geared toward reducing or reusing anything. It’s all disposable, and a lot of people don’t even bother recycling. But let’s say they do recycle, most of us still don’t know how to do it properly.
Plastics all have that little recycling triangle with the number on it, right? That number corresponds to types of plastics, and each one has a difficulty level of recycling. Generally, 1 and 2 are recycled, sometimes 5, and the rest usually go to a landfill because they’re not cost effective to recycle. How many of us check the number or even know what it means?
Papers tell a similar story. we can recycle standard paper, magazines, and corrugated cardboard, but cups, plates, and coated packaging (basically ALL product packaging) head to landfills and incinerators. Not only that, but if you’ve contaminated your recycling by tossing a pizza box in there, the oils could render the entire thing unable to be recycled. How many of you throw pizza boxes in the recyclables? I’ve done it for sure.
Let’s be clear: no single action can save us. Shit, a million can’t save us. But we have to do our part in the solution, otherwise we’re just the problem. I carry a ton of guilt because of how big of a roll I play in trash production. My shop fills anywhere from 6-8 contractor bags of non recyclable garbage every week, and I can promise we end up “recycling” products that can’t actually be recycled.
I’m trying to change as much as I can. Most of my art the past couple of years is filled with trash. I’ve made a point the last 6 months or so to take everything I possibly can and turn it into something useful, or at least something nice to look at. People already look at me like a weird hoarder, but I haven’t even really started. The more I learn, and the more processes I have in place, the faster I’ll be able to turn around and make something out of common rubbish.
I can’t save the world. Hell, I can’t save my town. But hopefully I can make a little dent in my little piece of the monster. Know that all mixed media and assemblage art that I do contains primarily materials that would otherwise be heading for landfills. In that way, I hope I can beautify the walls of people’s homes while doing my part to lessen my impact on the environment.
I one day hope to do this on a larger scale, and be able to save literal tons from landfills. There’s a master plan brewing, and it’s heavily focused on the reuse and repurposing of basically everything. Those details will come out as I make progress, but let’s just say it’s something that will benefit many people along the way. Don’t quit on your weird dreams, am I right?