You’d think someone as old as I am wouldn’t give a damn about the long-term future. And part of me doesn’t. It’s a great source of inspiration for science fiction, but it isn’t going to affect me one way or the other. My children are too concerned with their day to day concerns to think about it. My grandchildren? They will be the victims of today’s actions and inactions by those in power.
A small part of the long-term future is resources. Water is much in the news because of the drought in the far west of the US. Nestles and other companies are making fortunes bottling up the water that is in increasingly short supply. Fracking operations are draining and polluting underground water that cities draw on for drinking water. Maybe the drought will break next year. Maybe it won’t. Weather prediction is still just as much an art as a science.
The comments on a Gizmodo article on #droughtshaming in California are a good insight into attitudes pro and con water conservation. One point that got me was the statistics. Residential use of water in California is only 20% of overall consumption, and exterior landscaping is only 9% of that. So, while there are good reasons to shame the celebrities who still maintain their swimming pools and green lawns, even a 100% switch to ecological common sense by the moneyed elite wouldn’t be more than a drop in the bucket. If all the lawns in California dried up and blew away, it wouldn’t make a dent in a failing water supply.
All of which made me think about the good old days when we were encouraged to recycle everything. Cities invested big bucks in recycling pickup, and sorting facilities. Most of them shut down when they proved to be mostly a financial drain. And, of course, the statistics showed the truth — that residential garbage was such an insignificant part of the country’s waste stream that if every citizen did their part, it wouldn’t make a dent.
I live kitty corner from a 24/7 convenience store, and for the last two months I watched the remodeling that involved huge dumpsters filled to overflowing as the inside was gutted and the outside was redecorated. I watched a small fake dormer torn down and replaced by a giant fake dormer that involved what was probably thousands of pounds of lumber and roofing materials. And all I could think about was that if I recycled every recyclable for my entire life, it wouldn’t amount to what that one store hauled to the dump.
The funny thing is that I do still recycle, but I’ve recently made a change. I still put paper products in the dumpster set aside for that behind my apartment building because paper recycling is fairly efficient, and paper sent to the dump would be worthless in the future. But glass and cans now go into the garbage. I think of it as my tiny contribution to a future when municipal dumps are a major resource in a society that has collapsed under the weight of its own stupidity and blindness.