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A global morality: We recycle because we should …

So, should the end of recycling be at hand?

My good friend and pathway picker-upper Bob sent me a thoughtful opinion article by John Tierney in this morning’s New York Times: The Reign of Recycling. (You can also look it up at, search for “Tierney.”)

The essence is recycling is expensive, has dubious environmental benefits, and, as Tierney writes about us do-gooders, “… Are you in fact wasting your time?”

Tierney writes in a cold blooded yet compelling fashion. To paraphrase him, communities persist in recycling out of a sense of morality while recyclers themselves find their costs, and financial rewards, continue to lessen. In fairness, he mentions the added cost of creating products from raw materials rather than the bird-in-the-hand that re-use of materials brings to the collective table.

I understand the points but am at odds with the end premise.

I told Bob in response that we do some things because we can. I side with the notion that there is a larger morality tale at play here. “Some restaurants are overpriced but we still eat there,” I told Bob. “Some cars are expensive but we still buy them. I suppose it’s about doing the right thing.”

My Sunday haul. So, given Tierney's dire prediction for recycling, I'm suppose to stop what I do? I cannot go there, and won't. There is a case for an individual mandate that deems the environment a worthy global cause.

My Sunday haul. So, given Tierney’s dire prediction for recycling, I’m supposed to cease and desist what I do? I cannot go there, and won’t. There is a case for an individual mandate that deems the environment a worthy global cause.

I believe wholly that recycling is the right thing as a matter of global perspective. Sure, on an individual level we could abandon all hope that it helps yet I’m not willing to go there. As a society we could abandon the notion of keeping pollutants out of the environmental chain. Recycling could collapse entirely if businesses turn the other cheek for purely dollars-and-cents profit motives. That is an environmental doomsday scenario.

Yet when I walk I see junk that shouldn’t be there. When I paddle my fishing kayak in Charleston, I see all manner of abominable stuff that shouldn’t be in the water or marooned on the shoreline. Are we supposed to give in to the environmental dilemma?

Tierney makes his points. But I want to make mine, too, even on my vastly smaller, more individualized scale.

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.

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