Last month, you read about my coast-to-coast bicycle trip across America during the summer of 2010: “How we trashed an entire continent in 150 years.” I also wrote about our cities growing out of control and beyond human dignity. Despite that story, I wrote about the infinite beauty across this amazing North American continent. The magic of Yosemite, High Sierra, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Mississippi River and so much more! Everyone living in North America enjoys many blessings on multiple levels.
Hundreds of readers responded with e-mails lamenting America’s current conditions on many fronts. But the trash situation upset them! Some felt hopeless while others scowled with anger. Still others said, “What can we do?”
Answer: a great deal at the personal, local and state levels! You can band together in groups to create solutions and implement them. You may organize high schools, Rotary Clubs, Lions and other civic organizations to make change for the better. From all your letters, you might enjoy this short paragraph to give you some perspective:
“Imagine a country which employs the principles of personal responsibility and accountability for future generations. Everything you do-counts! If you do nothing, that counts likewise. When you read sobering information, do you want to give up? Or, do you want to engage like Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin, George and Martha Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Oprah, Barbara Jordan, John Muir and other Americans. You represent the Jefferson’s, Oprah’s and Dr. King’s of the 21st century. Consider it your honor and privilege to become a part of the solutions. Engage the present to change the future! Become an agent of the change you wish to see.” FW
Last Friday in Golden, Colorado, I watched a painful video program showing the amount of plastic and other trash generated by this country every month. Americans toss, flip, discard and disregard eight out of ten plastic, aluminum and glass water, soda, liquor and beer containers—into lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, parking lots, play grounds, streets, dumps and wilderness—without so much as a blink of concern for their actions.
Oprah Winfrey produced a show that explored what happened to all the plastic: she revealed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a 3.0 million ton floating island of plastic debris 60 to 90 feet deep, greater than the size of Texas—1,000 miles off San Francisco. She noted that humans around the planet add another 2.5 million plastic containers every hour 24/7 to that GPGP! Additionally, oceanographers reported that that 46,000 pieces of plastic float on EVERY square mile of our oceans around the planet. ( Google: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch for movies of it and figures. It exists on every ocean to varying and growing degrees.)
The GPGP kills millions of sea birds, turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks and other marine life in numerous ways—strangulation, in-gestation, stopped-up-bowels and worse. Millions of plastic bags stuff up the intestines of whales and dolphins—killing countless numbers. It disrupts eco-systems like reefs, the ocean bottom and more. As a Scuba diver for 47 years, I witnessed our pristine oceans transform into a junkyard of plastic, metal, tire and other human flotsam. I have stood knee deep in plastic trash on beaches around the world on six continents.
Here in the USA, we discard and toss enough glass, cans and plastic to fill up two Empire State Buildings every two weeks. Consequently, the U.S. ‘carbon footprint’ cost to Mother Earth and devouring of natural resources—plus more production of containers explodes beyond comprehension.
Painfully, a scant 27 percent of Americans recycle cans, glass and plastics! But in places like the great State of Michigan, where they passed a 10 cent deposit/return law 20 years ago, you won’t see a single container discarded anywhere! Why? No matter who tosses their containers, an army of kids snatches up every 10 cent container within moments!
Unfortunately, in my State of Colorado, the pretend-environmentalist Peter Coors of Coors Beer fame, spent millions to stop any container recycling laws from passing in 1974 and 1988. Why? More profit for him and more litter for us. When I personally approached him, he said, “Well, it’s not that bad because it’s only an eight percent waste stream.” To that I replied, “Yeah, well, Pete, you always tell viewers at Christmas to not ruin the High Country by not cutting a tree, but then, as we all walk around the Back Country wilderness, your cans, bottles and Coors beer boxes trash the environment.”
Coors responded, “Well, we need more education and responsible citizens.” I replied, “Would a 10 cent deposit law work much easier with an economic incentive like Michigan’s? Why don’t you take your $13 million annual salary and hire trash-truck crews to scour the roads, lakes, streams and parking lots to pick up the billions of containers that ultimately end up on the land…you’ll put folks to work and do a good deed!”
No reply on that one!
You probably faced the same men of financial power in your state and that’s why only seven states enjoy .05 cent deposit/return laws. Their only motivator: money, power, greed! Coors exemplifies a classic example of denial and complicity in long term negative impact.
However, men like Coors can be overcome with persistent stubbornness that grows stubbornly persistent. In a sermon last Sunday, my minister said, “You may incorporate B-H-A-G’s! Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals!
Our country desperately needs to end plastic bags flooding out of super markets and mercantile stores. We need to mandate cotton reusable bags: several of mine maintain their worth after 29 years of use! We need 10 cent deposit/return laws on ALL of our containers: we cannot continue as the most wasteful nation in the world as we gloat of our humanitarianism in the same breath. Yes, you will face Peter Coors “Robber Barons” in your own state, but, hey, if Michigan succeeded, so can you.
Form groups, web sites and clubs to pass a 10 cent deposit/return law in your state. Move at the state level to stop the use of plastic bags. Advance toward recycling everything that can be recycled. It’s up to you, your kids and your community. Be a leader or follower, but get involved! Additionally, how can BHAG’s become a part of every aspect of your personal and planetary life that longs for transformation. Inspired? You decide!
Need help? Right here: www.togethergreen.org ; www.earth911.com ; http://www.c2p2online.com/ Canadian Pollution Prevention ; www.recycle.com ; www.wastewatch.com ; Care 2 http://www.care2.com/channels/ecoinfo/recycling_waste
If you need further information for sites in your area: World Environmental Organization--
Again, it’s up to you to create your own BIG, HAIRY, AUDACIOUS GOALS! And so it is!