Save the planet? Why?

How green is my carbon footprint?

3 minute read
Recycling, back in the good old days.
Recycling, back in the good old days.
Suddenly, they're selling them everywhere: Those trendy reusable shopping bags you take to the supermarket for groceries, so you can bypass plastic or paper.

And when I purchase my customary store-brand bargain roll of CVS toilet tissue, I see they've repackaged it in a de rigueur green-and-brown wrapper, proclaiming its environmental friendliness. How thrilling: Going to the bathroom is designated an officially sanctioned planet-saving activity.

If anyone could give sustainability a bad name, it's CVS.

Then, over breakfast, I notice a review of a local art gallery trumpeting its latest group show— recycled objects— with a sculptor whose mostly mediocre work has been largely ignored suddenly grabbing the spotlight for his "green" creations.

Duchamp started it

Actually, didn't Marcel Duchamp already invent using "found objects" nearly 100 years ago? Duchamp supposedly coined the term "readymade" around 1913 to describe his found art, ranging from such recontextualized objects as a bicycle wheel, a bottle-drying rack and even a urinal.

Three decades ago, Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences showcased visionary ecology exhibits.

Twenty years ago, my friend Margaret Baker— a brilliant character actress and comedic performance artist— got municipal funding to prance and pirouette onstage dressed in edgy fashions cannily crafted from trash bags, encouraging her audiences in various city neighborhoods, via street theater, to recycle and use trash cans. Swathed in plastic, Margaret was "the Queen of Green," way ahead of her time.

Presciently, Margaret and her husband relocated to rural West Virginia more than a decade ago, moving into a nifty farmhouse on a rolling plot of land complete with minnow pond and live deer. Ever since, they've been pioneers in simple, basic, back-to-nature conscious living. In lieu of driving, they walk, hike and bike places constantly.

Learning from The Gleaners

Speaking of which, one of my favorite movies ever is the French avant-garde film director Agnes Varda's intimate and picaresque 2000 documentary, The Gleaners and I.

Varda's aesthetic, political and moral point of departure is Les Glaneurs, Jean-Francois Millet's famous 1857 painting (above) of peasants picking up after the harvest and scouring newly reaped fields for leftover food. In its glorious unpredictability, Varda's film traces the centuries-old proletarian practice of gleaning: how the poor pick up what others leave behind— grain, turnips, potatoes, grapes, whatever. Then the film ingeniously comes full circle to the present, exploring such related contemporary practices as "dumpster diving" and "freeganism," with their implications for planetary survival.

These days, going green has become the newest obligatory lifestyle— the latest oppressive form of political correctness. If Shirley Jackson were writing her chilling short story, The Lottery, today, she'd have the crazed villagers stone miscreants to death for not recycling.

(I was actually hauled into Trash Court a few months ago for using a paper bag because my recycling bin had been stolen. Am I bitter? What makes you think that?)

I ask you: How can I reduce my carbon footprint any further? I don't own or drive a car. I live without air conditioning. My wardrobe comes from thrift shops. I use up fewer natural resources than my back-to-nature car-dependent friends. Doesn't that count in my favor?

I know the glaciers are melting. But what's so great about penguins and polar bears, anyway? We can always clone them.

Wouldn't it be less stressful just to pollute the planet ad infinitum, deplete our natural resources, gobble up the food supply and then begin anew someplace else?

Littering on Mars? Pollution on Pluto? What an investment opportunity.♦

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