Friday, January 21, 2011
The Landfill Parable
Steve never really cared much for recycling. In fact, most of his friends and family were just your typical American overconsumers who found great comfort in the assumption that all the used plastic in the world magically disappeared through the cosmic portal in the back of the garbage truck. Then one day, as he was admiring his styrofoam collection, a mysterious neighbor invited Steve to join a group of friends on an errand that would change their lives. Naturally, Steve had always dreamed of far away life-changing experiences, but thought they'd never happen to him. Without hesitation, he accepted the neighbor's offer.
Moments later, Steve and the rest of group arrived at the local landfill. There, for the first time, Steve was impacted by the reality of all the garbage that was taking over our world. This is terrible! Steve thought. I think this might change my life! Then he and his newfound friends watched WALL-E... and Steve was convinced. His life had been changed. He vowed to never look at trash the same way again... and to burn his styrofoam collection immediately.
Upon his return, he was anxious to tell all his friends and family about all that he had seen and learned. He shared pictures and video with passionate narration on each scene. He shared his journal, and even wept as he recounted his favorite scene in WALL-E. He was sure that others would sense his passion and change their careless consumer ways. Imagine his shock and sadness when he discovered that his friends - even his family - didn't care... he watched in horror as they continued to drink bottled water, and never clipped the ringlets from their six-packs of soda. He scoffed as can after aluminum can was hatefully thrown into the trash. Why! he cried in desperation. Why don't they care? He didn't understand.
The landfill, Steve thought. I was just like them until I visited the landfill! Steve hadn't cared about the environment at all until his "life-changing experience"... and that experience ignited an awareness and a passion in him that suddenly made him appreciate things like conservation and Jack Johnson music. How could he suddenly expect everyone else to care when they hadn't shared his experience? And oh, how he was even tempted to look down on his friends and family for not caring like he did! I'm such a fool! he screamed into the night.
Throwing off his disappointment, Steve determined to allow the landfill to do its work in his life, if no one else's. With steadfast determination, he started reducing, reusing, and recycling. He made his own deodorant, wore clothes made of hemp, and started using bamboo in all of his decorating. He even made the decision to buy a car that runs entirely on raw sewage. After months of implementing these changes in Steve's lifestyle, others started taking notice. And before long, a few of his friends started asking questions about the environment, natural products, and even his trip to the landfill. It wasn't long before those closest to Steve started to care more about their carbon footprints, as well. And pretty soon, they all smelled like patchouli oil and stopped shaving.
And now I've said way too much.
NOTE: This parable is not about recycling.