Friday, January 8, 2010

Time to stop taking it all for granted

Mark and I watched a sobering documentary last night called “Manufactured Landscapes.” I highly recommend it. You can get it on Netflix instant download. It brings into focus my goal for One Small Change this month: educate the boys about waste. But first I really need to educate myself. Again.

The film is a study of how people are changing the face of the earth, the landscape of the earth, through manufacturing. Really, it’s about how we’re raping the earth. And looking at the many, many scenes of devastation that were pictured, I have the desire to run and hide…in shame…for how I’ve contributed to it all.

This is why I would love to stick my head in the sand (all can be found at the filmmaker/photographer's website):
  • the vast Chinese factories
  • the thousands and thousands of Chinese workers testing spray nozzles or building irons or slipping a wire around a little plastic part, day in day out
  • their downcast faces
  • the graveyards of plastics and metals and electronics
  • the endless coal fields needed to power China’s factories and cities
  • quarries that have changed the size and shape of mountains
  • rivers turned red with toxic waste

The knowing is only one part of what’s hard for me. I sit here in bucolic Sonoma county, with my view of my animals in the field, the rolling green hills, the soaring vultures. I can use any appliance, do any activity, open my fridge and eat whatever I want without regard to the cost it took to get it to me. How is it possible these other landscapes exist? Wouldn’t it be easier if I didn’t even know that those places are real?

I have guilt about my contribution to the situation. My need for a car, for roads, for electronics, for all the little doodads of life…those all are the reason for the decimation of our earth. And bigger reasons, too. But I have to take responsibility at some level.

I remember when we were building this house and deciding on materials for the master bathroom. I fell in love with these beautiful river rocks from Thailand that you could use like a mosaic surface. They were blues and greens and absolutely the look I wanted for our shower floor. But I was consumed with guilt over the raping of some Thai riverbed for my 4 x 9’ shower stall. For a while I just couldn’t do it. And then, I stuck my head in the sand and went forward with my vision. The shower looks really nice, but my guilt remains. Especially after seeing this movie. I was completely right to feel the guilt. Our flippant attitude towards natural resources has gotten us into this mess. To appreciate the beauty of my bathroom without really appreciating that the taking of those rocks from an actual natural environment that had to be disturbed for my delight…well, that is sobering.

Oh, and let’s not forget, just as an example, my soapstone counters in the kitchen…A mountain somewhere in Brazil is shuddering because my kitchen is beautiful.

I feel so helpless to make a difference. I mean, when you look at the vastness of the problem and you think about how interconnected we are to it, even with our distance from the really devastating places, we can’t help but feel somehow responsible for it. It’s our dependence on cheap material goods from China that has created the places shown in the film.

I’m reminded of a great short film someone sent me on the net. The Story of Stuff. Watch it. It explains how all of this has happened. And really makes you pause the next time you’re at Target or Walmart or even just in your car and you take something, anything for granted in your life.

It’s the taking for granted that’s gotten us here. We must do something about it. Appreciate everything.

Can we do that?


Sandy said...

Agreed on all counts! Must have the kids (all of us really) watch Manufactured Landscapes on Netflix immediately. Thanks for recommending.

G said...

In my class last semester, we read a book called Savages, about the pillaging of South American land for oil. It horrified me to think that to keep my car going, we are destroying native peoples landscape and way of life, simply so that we can drive without seeing oil rigs on our own coast.

Sometimes it would be easier to NOT know, wouldn't it?