The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 27, 2007

Rethinking Plastics

No, I’m not rethinking whether or not to buy or use plastic. That’s just the title of the class I started tonight through Green Sangha. During the course, we not only learn a lot about plastic, its properties and problems, but also the best ways to present the issue to others. Next week, we’ll have a special guest chemist who can explain the science behind different plastics. Having received one of the only D’s of my life in this subject, I really need this one!

What I was left with tonight was the Green Sangha principle that everyone does the best they can with the knowledge they have. In presenting the history of plastic, Stuart Moody, the instructor, said some very nice things about some of the inventors of early plastic, praising the developers of Tupperware and saying they were people we’d enjoy having over for dinner. They didn’t know what problems their products would cause in the long run. If they had known, they probably would have acted differently.

I said that whereas I could feel compassion for those early pioneers because they were acting out of ignorance, I have a very difficult time finding any compassion for the people that do have the information about the harmfulness of their products and push them anyway. And Stuart reminded me that those out there doing harm to our environment in the face of this information are also acting out of ignorance and illusion, the illusion of separateness.

Of course they are. Of course. Who would pollute a river if they truly felt that the river was part of themselves? Who would operate a factory in which their workers were exposed to toxic chemicals if they understood that they and the workers are all part of the same world body? Who would engage in a business that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of creatures if they realized the connection between themselves and all other life forms on the planet?

Stuart’s presentation began with what I recognized from my Mormon upbringing as a conversion story, a testimony. He talked about the night that he woke up to how much plastic there is in our everyday lives. I’ve been meaning to write my own conversion story in a post on this blog, but just haven’t yet found the words to do it because in many ways, I don’t understand how it happened. A series of factors came together, I heard and saw the right things at the right time, and all of a sudden, I was an activist.

But maybe some of you do have the words to explain how it was you first became aware of either the problems of plastic or environmental issues in general. Please share. I’d love to hear your stories.

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Environment: In high school I read Silent Spring and was surprised to learn that bad things can happen unintentionally while trying for improvement from a limited perspective. I had no idea until then that humans could harm the environment and also thought that farmland was nature undisturbed. There were no environmentalists that I knew of at the time. Years later, on air flights, I saw the huge dome of air pollution that sits over Chicago as we descended into it. I worked for a few years on the 102nd floor of Sears Tower and saw the pollution plume building from… Read more »