Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ranting about being Green is not always Pennywise

An opposite-take essay on disposability

By Jim Banholzer

Trying to save money, I set out to survive cold Idaho winters by plopping myself down on the edge of Hailey society in an affordable shack with minimal utility needs. Although, I attached lots of character to the poorly heated hut, sometimes its confined quarters gave me cabin fever. The second winter there, I begin having difficulty breathing and even nightmares. After a few nights of thinking I was suffering from a heart attack, I discovered that the substandard flooring and antiquated plumbing system were allowing poisonous methane fumes to seep up into the tiny living space, where there were no windows or ventilation.

The landlord then thought it was high time to profit from its booming in-town location. That old shack is now smithereens and I say, “Good Riddance!” Like lots of thought to be cost-cutting measures, the quality of living, which dropped tremendously in that tiny shelter, proved to be more costly than any rent savings I might have imagined.

Around the next corner, in my warm new close-knit community, I was secretly relieved when I saw my next-door neighbor throwing away recyclables. She was an intern for an environmental concern and I had been worried that she would give me the evil eye if I did not rinse every can, spic and span, before plopping each into politically correct pristine containers. Who has time to waste on this type of virtuous garbage anyway? It’s going to take some serious sustained efforts to convince many people and me that investing time to surface scrub every throwaway is worthwhile.

Take non-refundable glass for instance. There are only nine glass-reprocessing factories in the Nation. The closest one to Southern Idaho is in Portland for gush-sakes. Jeezum Crow! How can some people implore that wasting gas, by limousining glass over Oregon trails is better or even profitable with the rock bottom price glass has crashed to?

Moreover, the tree-huggers and whatnot brag that they mix their big deal glass into road compounds. These people are making me sick. Does all this stained glass blind the bulging mountain of “Dudley Dew-Rights” into limited prisms of thought? While they’re celebrating their tiny merit-badge highway clean ups, why don’t they just righteously tamp the beer bottles they find tossed off sides of roads directly back into the sand it came from. After all, silica (sand), which glass is formed from, is the single most abundant element found on this planet. Instead, the earth-muffins haul it back to the central scrutinizer transfer station, cut their vain little hands –probably getting hepatitis and God knows what else from the filthy glass–then crush it up for a waste of time photo-op, exposing negative chemicals to the wind. Environmental nuts like these should come clean themselves and admit that most of them are there posing to display their emerald vanities. I bet they have endless reasons as to why you never see them recycling their prized peacock styling mirrors over to the Gold Mine (thrift store).

By the same token, many people admit to throwing pennies into the rubbish for the job-secure sanitation engineers to pick up. That’s right, tossing away money freely, following our Government’s lead of greasing the slippery economy inner-mechanisms. Wheeling garbage around under well-designed plans is not all bad. The quicker we can stuff more landfills complete, the sooner some more mountainous parks will come into play.

What’s a penny to buy anyway? It’ll cover my rent for about thirty seconds. There is no more penny candy to rot your teeth. Heck, for years the cost to produce a penny has far exceeded Lincoln’s face value. Nowadays, the materials alone melted into copper basins are more valuable than infinitesimal pennies of the same weight.

Saving spendthrift pennies makes about as much sense as bronzing gold medals. Honest Abe. Only an untouchable person would stoop to pick up dirty coinage from the gutter and become the butt of cruel jokes. “Indisposed” Sun Valley girls won’t touch a man unless he has about a million starched greenbacks sticking out his back pocket, at ready stand-by for high-society squandering.

A modern fable related to this has Bill Gates strolling on a Segway, where he spies a hundred dollar bill with his money detector, blending in the green grass. If he clicks the kickstand with his penny-loafers, stopping to pick up the $100, the seconds spent doing so, in theory earn him (and the Gates Foundation) less money than he would have earned by not halting progress to grub up the lesser green.

On a more down to earth scale, let’s say that it takes you six seconds to lean over and pick up a glistening penny from Ketchum’s Gem Street. Is it levelheaded to do this? Some quick math: Six times ten is sixty seconds…times six again equals six dollars an hour. Therefore, if you are making minimum wage it does still “make sense” to take a break from harvesting potatoes, or bussing tables for Allen & Company to pluck up that fools gold!

Harping over this surprising new aspect makes me believe that perhaps I am a little green about some common cent facets. After all, legend has it that when Abe was an agile young man, he chased down an old Kentucky customer, realizing he had short-shifted the purchaser a couple of three pennies. Just as Lincoln later matured his own mind over larger issues, it’s only right that I should follow his lead and reflect about higher level spiritual items, rather than these small change squabbles. It’s easy to see gazing trancelike into Lincolns memorialized penny eyes, that as our founding Republican, he understood flip-flopping from heads to tails on some issues is the healthiest thing for humankind.

Unfortunately, it’s also human nature, to discard such wisdom unthinkingly, while lazily living off the overabundant lard so easily scooped and gathered from our heartland’s arteries.

Before the grizzled men battered down my old hovel into Lincoln logs, my friend Brad came to visit there a few days. It was good to see Brad back in town and we caught up on old times. On his last morning, hard rains spilled from the substandard shack roof, revealing by the front stoop a quicksilver mercury dime from WW2. When Brad turned this over to me, it was a priceless moment. We remembered steel pennies backing up steely nerves from that war effort, since every scrap of precious copper was ceremoniously cut, then cleansed on wings and prayers, for dumping throwaway bombs to “wipe out” expendable Japs and Germans.

In that era, the creed “Every Penny Counts” was treated like a religious doctrine. By utilizing that conviction, look to what degree we have ascended from earths touch. By accomplishing so many missions of far-reaching disposal, and standing haughtily like ill-bred Giants with food to burn, the rest of the world who must love us to death, say they want to greatly warship the United States!

On another Sun Valley trip the same season at Brad’s, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrapped up his visit here, he made an interesting observation about jet setters. He said something to the effect that it’s remarkable, our society pays to travel thousands of miles for meeting and celebrating with strangers in other lands, yet we do not invest free time to cross our streets to get to know our own neighbors. Reminds me of how often you see someone trying to flag down help on the side of the road to no avail. Another message mostly lost on the somewhat-jaded crowd was that The Dalai Lama was interested in making a buck and was happy that his elite sponsor with connections here in the United States was helping him launch his enterprising new book, The Universe in a Single Atom. Here is a holy man who, through living poorly has done enough rich shadow work on himself that he can freely broadcast his wide smile to millions showing that he, too, is attracted to powerful fistfuls of dollars. Unlike handlers behind some high-preaching podiums, the Dalai Lama openly recognizes that within the purest of bright goods lies balanced a minuscule seed of darkness and vice-versa. Identifying this innately human fact allows rational creatures to harness certain control over their inner conflicts, rather than be spooked from reflecting about the powerful prehistoric urges dormant, but still raring to go if needed, within all of us.

From throwaway pennies to the chemicals creating people on them and even the religious convictions behind it all, disposability is an extremely broad and complex subject. Being able to openly listen and debate from many sides of the issue is the strong mark of an established scholar. Some will argue that all of us are replaceable, yet at the same time, it’s clear that that the wiser you are, then the more distinct differences you can find between individuals. Each person has a unique gift of some sort. Sometimes these are hidden talents, unknown by the persons themselves and not revealed until later life fermentation.

When Brad visited, I realized that I had been taking him for granted –as a throwaway friend. I was blind to my ignorance until after he had moved on. Sometimes it takes a moving experience or even the death of a loved one for it to be evident of how much of an energetic force they became. Once centered in your life, but then transformed into a puzzling vortex of barrenness.

On the other hand, even Copernicus had to wait for deadwood thinkers to drift out of the way before he could show off his new spin to the world.

Therefore, the paradox to keep in mind is that even though people are replaceable they are also, irreplaceable. If we knew that we never moved on, we would all end up taking each other for granted. Having a near-fatal experience of being gassed by a shameful human waste disposal system, helped me strongly concentrate that life is ever so fleeting, making it evermore precious.

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