Thank you all for your well wishes. Yesterday night was a particularly bad night for me, and you don't know how comforting it was to read everyone's comments. I really cherish all of my blog-friends, even if I don't know you all in real life!
Anyway, yesterday I was in a kind of bad place where I was like, "What's the point of it all?" and "Why does it matter if we recycle if my friend just died?" But today I'm a little more in my right frame of mind, and the truth is, if we care about our loved ones, if we care about our children, or our grandchildren, or our friends, or our parents, we have to realize the impact the environment has on these people. My friend who passed away had leukemia that had been almost completely asymptomatic prior to Tuesday. Now, I don't pretend to know what gave her cancer, or what could have prevented it, but I do know that there are carcinogens all around us. In our plastic bowls, in our dryer sheets, in our household cleaners, in our hairspray.
Why? No, really, why? Because non-toxic solutions do exist. So why do we allow these toxins in our environment? Why do these toxins still fill row after row at Target? Why doesn't our government regulate this more stringently? Because, here's the thing. You can make a non-toxic dryer sheet. And some people might buy them. But by keeping toxic dryer sheets on the market, you are implicitly saying, "It's okay. There's nothing wrong with this dryer sheet."
I'm reminded of Jane Smiley's brilliant work, "A Thousand Acres." It's a retelling of King Lear, but there's a twist. It's set on an Iowa farm, and a great deal of the tragedy of the piece stems from the toxic environment of the Iowa farm. I'm not going to spoil it for those of you who haven't read it, but seriously, pick it up at the library. It's a fantastic read, and Smiley received the Pulitzer for it in 1992.
Our government currently seems to be ducking its head in the sand and ignoring the very real, very large environmental problems that exist. They cater to businesses by not enforcing stringent safety and health standards, by allowing known carcinogens to stay on the market, and then they turn around and cut funding for cancer research and other scientific endeavors. And it's bullshit. I'm sorry to swear, but it is. And we shouldn't put up with it, and yet, we do.
And I just want to go up to the American people and shake them. And say, this is not right. We don't have to just go along with this. Judith Levine put this so eloquently in an interview about her book, "Not Buying It." I'm paraphrasing here, because I don't have the book on hand but she said that we Americans don't want too much, we don't want ENOUGH. That instead of demanding more vacation time, or universal health care, or affordable daycare, or paid maternity leave, etc etc we're settling for an iPhone and credit card debt. And it's true.
Let's think for a moment how different it could be. What if, after September 11th, the government hadn't asked us to go shopping. What if they had raised taxes instead? Now, look, taxes aren't fun. But neither is government debt. So what if the government had decided to raise taxes for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or to increase homeland security instead of going into debt? Or what if the government had decided to prevent recession by increasing government jobs a la the New Deal instead of sending us all rebate checks. What if Americans woke up and realized that we're getting a very raw deal right now. That we deserve better than this. That education and health care and the environment are more vital to our happiness than this year's boots.
And that's why I'm an environmentalist. That's why I'm a non-consumer. I don't want less. I want more.
1 month ago