Tuesday, September 14, 2010

“Restrain Your Greed”

A multitude of small clouds stretched across the sky yesterday. Here, in Wellfleet, it already feels like autumn. This morning I fished out my jeans from a box of winter clothes. Sven and I put on sweatshirts for an excursion to LeCount Hollow. We had to take them off for our walk. The brilliant sun warmed the beach where optimists had set up a row of a dozen beach chairs, all facing south. I wasn’t feeling all that optimistic, myself. Melancholy would be a more apt description of my mood. These days I’m thinking a lot about the environment and the power of corporations.

I receive half a dozen emails every morning, urging action on this or that.  The political ones get deleted. Messages from non-profits like NRDC or Sierra Club will be opened with circumspection.

The voices have grown more strident of late. The global warming activists have decided to give up niceties and contemplate other types of action with regard to the climate change bill. The messengers warning about food safety have moved beyond strident to hysterical. Through a comment to the Environmental Working Group Facebook page, I found an article by a British scientist, who came out of retirement to put parents on guard about microwave radiation from cell phones. The Internet cacophony finally got to me. That was when Sven suggested going to the beach. But even there I saw reminders of environmental degradation, like this helium balloon, off a cruise ship.

We passed a woman, named Lisa, picking up plastic bags.  It occurred to me that there's a disconnect between what legislators say and what people do, and especially women, when it comes to the environment. Everyone should spontaneously assume responsibility, as Lisa does, and take measures to save the planet. We do not need to be members of the local Conservation Commission to participate in the removal of plastic bottles, bags, and trash from our beaches. It should become a reflex for us all.

Sven pointed out that that what I am feeling is described in Charles Baxter’s review of Jonathan Frazen’s new novel, Freedom, in the latest New York Review of Books: “What has happened, I think, is that the public sphere is regarded as a total loss, so that the big problems are imagined as unsolvable. The result is a particular kind of despair, the sort that arises from rage with no outlet, the core emotion of a large proportion of educated readers during the George W. Bush administration. Corrupted by ruinous quantities of money, and the cynical application of power, the public world depicted here seems incapable of saving anything of value. At every point, where a citizen tries to enter that world, he encounters active lying and the operations of expedient logic, and in the novel’s view, he becomes a collaborator.”

I will not be a collaborator. Did you know DDT is still used in 17 countries?  I learned this fact from the Safe Planet Web site after watching Professor Maathai, of Kenya. Mosquitoes there breed the stagnant water that collects in the pockets that form in plastic bags, strewn across the countryside. The UN Messenger of Peace and Nobel Prize winner is quite eloquent about the corporate world. She says, “You have to restrain your greed.” Please watch this short video. (Businessmen convinced the Kenyan government to oppose a ban on thin plastic bags, so mosquitoes continue to breed and Africans are obliged to rely on DDT, which is a toxic chemical that accumulates in our bodies.)

What can you do? Get involved. Share what you know. Speak out. And, if you live on Cape Cod, vote in the primary today. Here’s my green ticket: Dan Wolf, Sarah Peake, Rob O’Leary, Deval Patrick ...