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Do we lessen ourselves?

This question may move us beyond the context of the litter that lines our streets, roads and pathways.

When we look at things from the larger environmental context, do we lessen ourselves when we toss trash out or fail to recycle everything we can, neglect to tune up our clunker of a car lest it belch out harmful soot and gases, or turn a blind eye to any number of other harmful/wasteful practices?

Maybe so. It has only been the last 150 years or so that man – hardly the historical blink of an eye considering our short earthly timeline – began to create chemicals that led to certain products and byproducts that are

I may make it a practice to bag the litter of others, but I have my own environmental baggage, too.

I may make it a practice to bag the litter of others, but I have my own environmental baggage, too.

tied hand and glove to the pollution we have now. Oceans afloat with plastic, trees dying from a blanket of particulates, ground water under assault from careless dumping-disposal (and yes, most likely fracking), and our basic health threatened by any number of carcinogens we are powerless not to make contact with.

It seems I answer my own question.

Don’t let me, however, cast the first stone since I am hardly without sin. In fact, put me at the head of the line. I’m far from a zero-waste person. My car needs a tune up. I drive to the Harris Teeter grocery store or SouthPark Mall or other nearby places when a brisk walk would do. My windows aren’t energy efficient. I sometimes drink bottled water.

My footprint may be somewhat less than others, but it is a footprint nonetheless. I’m not mankind’s spokesperson to answer why we manufacture and consume – and toss aside – what we do.

I think perhaps the better time to ask this question is 100 or 200 years from now. Only then will our descendants know the damage we’ve inflicted upon them. My guess is that their answer will be vastly different from what I put forward. The guessing here is they won’t like their conclusions any better than I do mine.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

4 Comments on Do we lessen ourselves?

  1. Rachel Eldridge // November 6, 2013 at 1:38 am // Reply

    I interpreted your question in a different way — one of self-respect. By littering it sends a message that we are not important and don’t care about ourselves by not caring for our environment. I often tell the groups that help maintain the grounds where I work that caring our campus shows care to the children that live with us.

    • Rachel: I agree. There is some uncaring nature here that probably does equate to some sense of lower respect for themselves and the environment. I wish I knew how to turn that around. I’m open to suggestions.

  2. Dave, I was thinking somewhat along the same lines today while watching a few people smoking on the street while watching hundreds of single driver cars pouring pollutants out onto all of us…which is worse? Those harming themselves or us harming all of us? The city I live in, Des Moines IA, does not seem to be so litter filled as Charlotte NC but I can guarantee you that we top Charlotte in car pollutants per person driving…very little walking here in relationship to the entire population.

    • Both are bad. I just don’t know why we don’t invest more in transit – not necessarily rapid transit but just moving folks around. I think, too, part of it is expectation – we expect to be able to be mobile. We need to change that so we don’t just buzz to the store or take off on other superfulous trip that could well be unnecessary if we would just plan ahead a little bit more.

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