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It’s Queasy Being Green

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The environmental movement reflects some healthy common sense about our planet. I just wish we would’ve picked a different color to define it.

First of all, I’m not at all sure that green should be the planet’s preferred color. If the space shuttle suddenly started beaming back images of Earth that were green instead of blue, wouldn’t that mean there’s a pretty big problem here? Wouldn’t it mean the Big Blue Marble’s oceans were suddenly coated with thick, green pond scum? Isn’t the crisis over global warming about what is now frozen and white maybe one day soon becoming lush and green? (Before I go any further, what is it exactly about an eagle that’s green? Maybe that’s the problem with our NFL team’s fortunes.)

Speaking of fortunes, the color of money is green. And money—the making of it to obscene proportions—certainly has contributed to some of our environmental crises. To be green with envy is not one of our more endearing human qualities. I was green on a cruise ship once. I know being in the pink would have felt a lot better. And I’d certainly feel blue if my dentist told me my teeth were starting to turn green.

I know when the siding and deck on my house turn green, it’s time for a power-wash. When Oscar Madison offered “green sandwiches and brown sandwiches” to his poker buddies, didn’t most of them opt for brown? And when I see a lawn that’s too green, I think of all the fertilizers that went into making it that way—fertilizers that wind up in storm runoff that turns into red tide when it hits our streams, rivers and oceans.

But I suppose my biggest problem is not the color we’ve designated for environmental issues, or that we’ve allowed politicians to lead the debate, instead of those whom we would expect to actually know about these things, such as scientists. No, my biggest problem with the whole environmental cause is recycling.

I know. It borders on heresy to speak out against it. But isn’t recycling simply us telling industry, “We’ll clean up after you and do all the heavy lifting to sort out the various materials you’ve shoved down our throats, and ship it back to you at public expense so you have a whole pile of raw material to make something else out of—all provided to you completely free of charge”?

And if you don’t recycle, you’re a bad citizen. What a scheme!

I wonder what would happen if the industries producing all those materials that have to be recycled paid for all the costs associated with recycling. I bet that would cut down on volume, to say nothing of improving the efficiency of packaging materials so you’d no longer need the Jaws of Life to open a dang DVD.

But I can see business cringing at this idea, because “paying” in this case would be in the form of a tax—something business has always considered pollution to its bottom line, a pollution it expects politicians to recycle from business back to consumers. In the end, business merely recycles our income by shipping it off to the IRS—all free of charge, of course. We even pay for the stamp.

Environmental issues, it seems to me, are more of a what-goes-around-comes-around kind of recycling of bad ideas, bad policies and bad choices that spin and spin until they do eventually turn you green. Is anyone out there still thinking that maybe if there were simply fewer of us populating the planet, it might be able to take care of itself? But that’s a whole other story. At times like this, I like to recall the words of that great American philosopher, Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Reid Champagne spends more and more of his time thinking green but seeing red in Newark, Del.

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